Have you ever found yourself working so hard toward a goal that you stop feeling connected to the purpose of it in the first place?
Whether it’s a personal objective or a career milestone that you’re trying to reach, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason why you actually wanted to achieve this feat; this is especially true if you’re spending long hours grinding away at something that feels far off.
Luckily, this doesn’t happen often for me: I love what I do and am fortunate to see the impact of my work on the lives of the clients I serve. But I got to that point this week with one of my bigger projects. After months of chipping away at it, I realized I’d forgotten why I was doing it at all.
So, what’s a girl to do when she’s working so hard that she loses her connection to her purpose?
Get some perspective. It may sound simple, but it’s the most powerful way to recharge the batteries and refocus on the road ahead.
Here are three steps you can incorporate into your routine today to guarantee that you aren’t feeling burnt out tomorrow.
1. Take a breather.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably convinced yourself that you need to take on the world and create impeccable results in record time…but just because you believe that doesn’t make it true.
Ask yourself: Is this true? Do you really need to answer emails for the next three hours straight, or can you hide your phone in a desk drawer and enjoy a cup of coffee? If you think that pushing through your work without pausing for a break is making you more productive, think again. One key habit of highly productive people is that they recognize the need for break time. Furthermore, taking a periodic break from work has been proven to lower your stress levels, according to a recent study from Lindt USA.
If you find yourself unable to unwind and de-stress through a series of short breaks during your day, it might be helpful for you to find an activity that forces you to focus your attention on something other than your work. The Mayo Clinic suggests recharging with yoga and incorporating a series of breathing techniques that will allow you to center your thoughts — and help re-focus you toward your goal.
When you slow down, you allow channels of creativity to open, and in that flow, you’ll be your most effective. Trust that, and make space for it in your belief system
2. Take an inventory.
I can’t tell you how many people look at their lives and tell me, “Something is missing.”
Here’s the deal: We live in a society that assumes you need more. More money, more clothes, more status… All around you, society seems to be pushing MORE. But I argue that what we need is often less.
Instead of thinking: What can I ADD into my world to make life better?
Ask yourself: What can I REMOVE from my world to make things better?
There are countless benefits associated with de-cluttering your space. For starters, excessive clutter has been linked to anxiety and stress. It actually inhibits your creativity by distracting you from the task at hand, and makes you feel guilty for not keeping your space cleaner. When you can’t find what you need easily, it ends up costing you time and causing you frustration.
Turning your living space into a clutter-free zone will give you a clearer mind while you’re working toward your goal.
But, what should you do with all that extra stuff?
There are so many places to donate unwanted items. Organizations like The Salvation Army regularly accept donations. If you don’t have one in your area, look for a local charity to give your excess possessions to.
More often than not, you’ve lost a connection to your purpose because there’s too much clutter in your life. There’s some truth in the old saying, “the more things you own, the more those things own you”. Sorry to be so honest, but it’s time to clean up, sister!
Often times when we’re working toward a goal, we feel like the only control we have overachieving it is to keep our heads down and hack away at the task at hand, blindly hoping that our efforts pay off.
One way to be more in control of the work you’re doing is to incorporate volunteer work into your life. Take a break from doing work where the payoff isn’t always immediately visible and volunteer your time instead. Whether it’s cleaning up a park, helping to build homes for low-income families or passing out food at your local food bank, providing service for the community at large will give you a greater sense of purpose.
I once took a break to volunteer at Camp Ronald McDonald For Good Times, and losing myself in service – instead of in my work – was a simple reminder of the power I have to make a difference… I returned to my big project with a renewed connection to the “why”, and a much stronger faith in my ability to complete it in my vision.
Never underestimate the power of perspective. Often times, it’s not the hours of work you put in that’s going to leave you feeling fulfilled. Rather, it’s pausing to take stock of the other things that are happening in your world, and reflecting on how working toward your goal fits into your life plan.
This article first appeared in Forbes.