12 Lessons for a Burned Out World
It's that time of year when people like me (coaches, bloggers, etc.) tend to write one of those articles. You know the type - articles about goals, dreams, visions, lessons, all that... I have a "love/dislike" relationship with those articles. And I'm gonna write one anyway. I hope you like it.
All kidding aside, I was inspired to write this post by my friend, colleague, and mentor Val Nelson, who wrote a splendid piece this week on taking time to recognize the "bright spots and progress" in our lives. I encourage you to check that out ... as soon as you're done with this post! 😉
Ok, without further ado* here are 12 lessons that I have taken in this past year. I hope they will be helpful for anyone who is dealing with the burnout conditions that are so prevalent in the world today:
The seemingly ubiquitous social conversation about "boundaries" becomes easier for me when I simplify it by getting clear on what I need and what I want. My needs have to be protected by boundaries for me to maintain serenity. My wants exist in a separate space, one that invites collaboration, disappointment, surprise, and a healthy dose of collective tension.
Burnout is a rotten fruit. It tastes awful and offers no nutrients. Understanding its source - the burnout seeds that were planted in us long ago - is an essential way to create a new type of harvest.
"Rest" does not equal sleep. There are infinite forms of active rest (communing with nature, switching to a phone call instead of Zoom, long walks, etc.), as well as multiple means of passive rest. My favorite version of the latter is what a friend once termed "flat work" - simply lying down without any intention of sleeping ... or anything else. Rest starts with intention.
Lessons will always be coming my way. There is no such thing as mastery in life. Once we learn a lesson, which often takes repeated experiences with it, we are then granted the opportunity to learn a new lesson. Embracing this provides me with a bit of salvation from labeling each new challenge as a problem.
When I am willing to talk to people in my life about the scary/interesting ideas that I'm not quite ready to act on, it accelerates my progress towards making those ideas part of my reality. This allows me to grow past my current limitations a bit faster.
Building a model (for our lives, our work, our relationships, etc.) requires intensive work, often over a long period of time. And once we have a model that makes sense to us, life and work and relationships become much easier.
In the moments when I am recovering from a bout of feeling downcast, it can be helpful for me to ask myself "What do I deserve?" (Note: This question isn't necessarily helpful "on the way down", rather when I have started recovering from whatever spin-out I've been in and am ready to start feeling better.)
Somewhat related to the previous item ... Using gratitude to get out of burnout can be like throwing a bicycle to a drowning man. Sometimes it's best to start by getting clear on our resentments so we can clear out the toxins that have built up inside us. (Hat tip to Cait Donovan, from whom I learned this via her Resentment Journal process.)
By going against the grain of male stereotypes and creating a life based on fluidity, rather than rigid foundations, I have become happier and more free. It hasn't necessarily made life easier, but then again, I'm not sure that's the aim.
My life is like the ecosystem of an ocean. From the brackish waters where a river empties into it, to the impossibly deep waves at its center, I am at once a drop, a ripple, a swell, an ebb, and a wave, commingling with the rest of us to make up its entirety. In recognizing this, I can sink into the expanse of my life and diminish my fixation on the salt in my eyes and the sand in my ears, preferring instead to be curious about the imperceptible and seemingly impossible dance that the surface performs with the air above it.
It is never too late to tell someone you love them. In doing so, we reconnect to the deep longing that we all have to be seen, held, and known. That is true healing.
Burnout is not a problem. If it was, all of you smart people dealing with burnout would've figured out a solution already. Instead, it's a dilemma. That means it requires strategies, not a solution, in order to overcome it. (I learned this from Dike Drummond, the Happy MD.)
The ultimate strategy for defeating burnout is developing a sense of "expansive intimacy" in your life. I'll be sharing a lot more about this in 2022, because that is the thesis for the book I'll be publishing next year.
* - Did you know that "ado" means a hubbub, a bustle, a flurry, or a fuss? Yeah, me neither.
** - Because I think I'm supposed to offer a bonus lesson when I do one of these lists, right?
Jim Young is a Men's Burnout Coach. Several years ago he began looking for lessons across all aspects of his life. While he hasn't written them into year-end articles every year, they have all proved to be important stones along life's path.
When Jim isn't learning lessons (rarely), he's putting them to use in his work as a coach & facilitator, as well as in his roles as a parent, a partner, a friend, and improv comedian. Each of these roles provide Jim with a measure of intimate connection, which keeps him out of burnout.
Jim's first book (working title: Expansive Intimacy: The Sustainable Path out of Burnout) is slated for publication in the fall of 2022. If you'd like to get in touch with Jim about any of the topics mentioned here (burnout, coaching, intimacy, books, bicycles for drowning men, etc.), you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.