I have to confess something. I am feeling a little bit of burnout. I’ve been doing this blog for a little more than two years. I probably write, on average, 3000 words a day seven days a week. If I am not done with my 3000 words by 9am I start to feel a little bit tense (it doesn’t happen often but it happens). I’ve published 464 posts. Five I’ve had to delete for various reasons after I published them. So 459 posts are published averaging about 2000 words each. 136 posts are in my Drafts folder because I didn’t think they were good enough to publish.
My entire Daily Practice revolves around this blog. I stay healthy so I have the energy and drive to wake up early and work on the blog. I started the blog shortly after I got married and began eliminating various negative relationships in my life. That elimination worked magic in my productivity. The blog itself is usually the way I come up with the ideas to exercise my idea muscle. I also read every day to either help with the ideas or to get inspiration from different writers I enjoy. And for me, this blog is about how to combine the spiritual with the secular, the soul with success. Every aspect of the daily practice I have outlined comes full force in how I do this blog.
And most of the time, I love doing it. I feel creative. I’ve made lots of friends through this blog. It’s been such a pleasure.
But I know myself. Two years is sort of my time limit on anything. I’m not the sort of person who spends 50 years doing something (more on Mick Jagger in a future post). I was at HBO for 2 years before I started my first company, Reset. Two years after that, I sold the company. Stockpickr from beginning to end was about two years. I traded for hedge funds about two years. I only stayed in graduate school about two years before I was so burnt out they threw me out.
Does this mean I should stop doing the blog? No, of course not. But the feelings of burnout are natural. They are natural for me. They are natural for you. It’s the body’s way of saying, “Whoops! Time is up. You need to make a change.” Something has to happen. If you stay doing what you are doing, you will regress. If I stick with this exact routine, quality will go down. I know it. So something has to change.
I don’t know what it is. You don’t know what you have to change either. That’s why we are experiencing burnout.
When you say “burnout” it really means you have two problems. One is that you have high expectations of yourself to achieve something. Two is that you did not meet those expectations so now you are unhappy. So the answer is, stop being so hard on yourself. Why the high expectations? Did someone teach you that life would be bad unless you always set yourself up for such high expectations that you were bound to be ultimately disappointed?
Don’t be upset at yourself for experiencing burnout. Be thankful.
If a child didn’t have nerves in his fingers then he wouldn’t know that the barbecue was hot. A child is thankful for those nerve cells. Burnout is your mind touching a hot stove and the mind’s nerve cells are reacting. Hence: “Burn” out. Pull your hand a way. Stay healthy. Continue the Daily Practice. Don’t be afraid of change. Change doesn’t mean loss. It doesn’t have to mean stepping back. It just means “change”.
And then wait. Take walks. Stay away from the computer as much as possible. Eat well. Change your routine. Your routine is designed (correctly) to make sure the unconscious stays out of your process. You didn’t need it. Now you do. So by mixing up your routine, you let your unconscious come in and tell you what it thinks you need to be doing now.
If you respect the burnout, trust that you are not in total control of your universe, be grateful that you live in a world that allows for change and continue all aspects of your daily practice (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual health), then only good things will happen. They might be small changes. They might be rejuvenated energy and creativity. They might be 180 degree changes. You and I just don’t know what they are yet. Surrender to it.
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Last week I had a rough week. It was a combination of having a lot to get done, worrying about getting all of it done, worrying about the future, barely sleeping at all, feeling lonesome, and probably not running enough. (There is a high correlation between my mood and my running, or lack thereof.) Whenever I have a bad day, I usually shrug it off and try not to make it two bad days or more. But alas, ever so often, it happens. And it is during these days or weeks that are difficult, that I realize how much of a performance living can be.
There is an expectation that we have of others, with regard to how they are and how they should be. To those who are familiar with me, I am often happy and laughing and friendly, albeit while also being deep-thinking and sometimes lost in my thoughts. But sometimes I’m angry, I am frustrated; I am filled with venomous passions. And I have had to learn to temper those passions, to seclude myself, in order to not speak or act out of anger because I don’t want to. But I also don’t want to put on a performance of being happy and laughing and friendly when deep inside, in the moment, I am not.
And if you stray away from this expectation of whom you are who you should be, people around you become uncomfortable. There is an inability to deal with the inconsistency of you being something other than what they are used to you being. You might even get the comment, “You’re not your usual self.” And maybe it’s within someone’s right to perceive you as not being consistent with whom you’ve presented yourself as being. But maybe more than that, it’s within your right to be something other than your expectations, even if it’s only for a moment. What is a usual self? Because when I’m angry and irritated, I feel like myself, it’s a part of who I am; it’s just a part that more often than not, I like to keep to myself.
I think that many parts of life are a performance. The well-known Shakespeare line in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players,” is something that doesn’t ring truer than when you try to deviate from the role that you’ve presented to others. But I can’t help but feel that these roles and parts that we assign ourselves keep us from being human and seeing others as human: Humans who are intertwined between their blessings and challenges, and their fortunes and trials. Humans who are happy but sad, exhilarated but exhausted, and grateful but just might want to scream and yell and be angry because in the moment, they are.
Being human means being complex, it means being consumed by a million and one thoughts at any given moment. It means trying to survive and thrive and create a self that you’re happy with. But that self is complicated, that self isn’t perfect and it never will be. And rather than expecting people to always live up to who we think they are, maybe we can accept that people are allowed to be complicated and to be inconsistent and to live, rather than to always perform. Maybe just maybe, we can allow each other to simply be human.
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