To immune yourself to burnout, it’s not enough to make changes to your work schedule or self-care routines. You need to uproot the belief system that tolerates it. Here are four perspective shifts that make burnout a thing of the past and help you to adopt a new paradigm of sustainable personal energy:
Perspective Shift #1: You are in a dance of co-creation with the universe.
Most folks susceptible to burnout are serious go-getters, ambitious types that are very comfortable setting goals and accomplishing them. They are the do-ers of the world. While there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious or action-oriented, if we wish to avoid burnout, we need to keep this aspect of our personality in balance with our ability to be receptive. With receptivity, we are able to receive support from the larger universe around us and remove the temptation to do it all ourselves.
Take the example of a pregnant woman. She is able to achieve one of the most miraculous things on the planet – she uses the vehicle of her body to help create another human being. But, she doesn’t do this by conquering her to-do list:
- Week One: Make my baby’s heart
- Week Two: Grow my baby’s brain
- Week Three: Start separating the hemispheres of my baby’s brain
Of course not! Instead, she surrenders to a larger process that’s happening within her and through her, not from her. The resulting baby did not come from her efforting as much as it came from her surrendering and allowing herself to be in a process of co-creation with forces greater than herself. Yes, she still needed to do many things, such as eat well, rest, and take vitamins in order to have a healthy pregnancy. She was not passive, but at the heart of this great process was a stance of receptivity.
Perspective Shift #2: Your inner voice is your biggest advocate.
When we’re prone to burnout, we tend to tolerate a lot more NOISE in our life and crowd out the space to stay in touch with our inner wisdom. Noise can refer to the excessive mental chatter in your head, or the content you choose to take in from the outer world, whether that be mindless posts on social media or even the endless piles of paperwork on your desk. Indeed, some level of noise is necessary in our lives. But when the level has gotten so high that you only have an occasional check in with your intuition, usually in a moment of desperation when you’re asking for emergency guidance, it’s time for you to re-evaluate your priorities.
The more you connect with your inner voice, the more savvy you become at learning the ways it communicates to you. Your inner wisdom is hard-wired to give you signals about threats to your well-being well in advance of things getting to the stage of burnout. There are many ways you can connect to your inner voice through things like meditation, journaling, or even walks in nature. The way you do it is up to you. Just make sure that you commit to your chosen way and do it regularly.
Perspective Shift #3: There are always opportunities to orient towards nourishment, even in the mundane or uncomfortable things in life.
People who are likely to burnout also have a very high tolerance for suffering. Suffering is when we choose to identify with our pain and garner our sense of self-worth from it. For example, it’s not uncommon in corporate America to see many individuals brag about how little sleep they get or how many cups of coffee they have to have to make it through their day. It’s as if we’ve learned to flaunt our exhaustion as a badge of honor, and that mentality almost ensures we’ll end up in a place of dissatisfaction and burnout.
To shift to a paradigm of sustainable personal energy, we need to stop our addiction to suffering. We need to remember that no matter how mundane or even unenjoyable an activity can be, there is still a way to connect to a feeling of nourishment or even pleasure while doing it – one that is not dependent on us running ourselves ragged. When we make this shift in our perspective, things that were once depleting start to become more bearable, or maybe even downright energizing!
Let’s assume you have a tedious computer desk job, for example. What if you could learn to connect to a practice of deep breathing while doing it so your body could be more relaxed and awake? What if you could choose to start each day at your desk by listing at least 5 things you’re grateful for so that you don’t lose sight of all that is good in your life even if this job is less than perfect? What if you could choose to spruce up your office with fresh flowers and nice background music to make your work feel more pleasant? The possibilities to orient to nourishment throughout the day are endless, but we must make the choice to prioritize this perspective over the stories of suffering we like to tell ourselves. Those old stories of suffering are learned behaviors, and they can be unlearned too.
Perspective Shift #4: Embracing your vulnerability opens you up to receive more support from yourself and others.
Look into the minds of most burnout people, and somewhere in there is lurking a relentless perfectionist. Perhaps, it takes the form of a harsh inner critic that won’t let up and demands that we don’t just do everything ourselves but that we do it perfectly. Ironically, even when a perfectionist puts forth the most amazing efforts, it still never ends up being good enough.
Perfectionism feeds off and perpetuates our insecurities. It breeds a feeling of shame and isolation, and this can lead to, you guessed it, more burnout.
If you truly want to kick burnout to the curb once and for all, it’s imperative that you learn how to embrace your vulnerability. This doesn’t mean you have to reveal all your deep dark secrets to everyone, but it does mean you have to accept that you are human and as such you are imperfect and likely don’t have it all together at all times.
To own this perspective shift, you might have to stretch your comfort zone and start challenging yourself to admit “I don’t know” or “I need help” when those words ring true for you. When you stop fighting your vulnerability, it opens the door to a more compassionate relationship with yourself and allows you to receive more support from your community as well.
These perspective shifts outlined above set the foundation for a life that honors your worth, acknowledges your boundaries, and supports you in feeling fulfilled without the exhaustion. It’s important to note shifting your perspective is not a quick fix. It’s a process of choosing again and again to commit to this new way of being daily until it becomes the new normal. Be compassionate with yourself as you move forward. It may not always feel easy or comfortable to take this new perspective, but quite frankly, what’s the alternative?