Like me, you’ve read many articles about burnout and how to avoid it. Exercise, eat better, take a vacation or find a hobby. Sure, those things are important, but honestly we should include those in our daily lives regardless. If you’re actually facing burnout, these are just short-term tactics.
So what are the underlying causes of burnout? Solving your underlying causes will not only decrease the burnout you are experiencing but banish it once and for all. I believe that burnout comes from the emotional needs of being highly vested in something demanding. Here is my alternative point of view:
What if I told you that burnout could be a function of self-esteem management? Seems crazy?
Most leaders or very ambitious people are not always doing what they are doing for the right reasons. For example, I was one of those people in charge. I built a large business and retired at the age of 45. I know for a fact that everything I did was for the wrong reasons. I chronicle this in my book perfect Perfect Pain.
Over my career I burned out on many levels until I got help to understand why I was the way I was. For example, I found that the money and power I chased stemmed from the need to satisfy the child version of myself that didn’t get enough praise from my parents. I continuously added and created demands to meet in hopes of gaining my parents’ praise.
When we start to get too fixated on results, we forget one of the most fundamental things that made us happy as kids - being curious! Find your inner Sherlock Holmes and look for the NOT so obvious reasons as to why you feel the way you do. (For further reading, check out this great article.
Here is what I learned about burnout from my own quest to understand my psychology:
1) Pursue your goals for the right reasons – Many people I know aren’t happy once they achieve their goals. They need more. The key to happiness is NOT getting what you want, but whether you still want it after you get it! If you aren’t doing things for the right reasons then you’re doing it to keep your self-esteem tank full. Recognize this and reorganize your wants and needs!
2) Focus on the process – Looking at the scoreboard is not only unproductive but also stressful. Scoreboard watching is a means to generate self-esteem. But know that if a great scorecard raises your self-esteem then a bad one will also crash it. Focus on the process and look for enjoyment from the game itself,not the results.
3) You don’t have to love everything you do - If you feel that you have to derive joy from every aspect of your job or life then you will NEVER be able to enjoy the ride. You will always find yourself chasing something that you will never get. This is a sure recipe for burnout!
4) Care but not that much – In life and business we need to care about getting what we want, but not that much. Caring too much about achieving a specific outcome puts too much value on something. The truth is we don’t have a crystal ball and we don’t know if any outcome will begood or bad. We all have had certain circumstances that we deemed as bad and later they turned out to be a blessing. If you can operate this way in all things you do, you will likely focus more on the process and in turn feel less stressed and avoid burnout.
5) Change your routine from time to time – By changing your routine, you are effectively committing to relaxing and letting things happen. Too much fixation on the same routine is a sign of too much anxiety from staring at the scoreboard. Some routine is good, but change is good and healthy as well. Change helps your mind to relearn and get curious.