You don’t have to give up being ambitious and passionate to avoid burnout.
Although sometimes it feels as though we do doesn’t it?
Personally, I have always been driven. I was an A+ high school student, School Prefect and over-all high achiever (who then burnt out within 6months of Uni). I worked multiple jobs in my early twenties (experienced depression). And ran a thriving Reiki Practice and Training Business (burnt out twice running all the things and seeing alllll the people).
I very much understand the predicament faced by those of us who LOVE to learn and strive in reaching our big goals, but who also need to be deeply conscious of the need to balance that – with looking after our energy. The struggle is real!
After the second round of burnout, I thought there MUST be something wrong with me. Firstly, maybe I was TOO driven (apparently that’s a thing with some women *insert sarcasm*?) Luckily, being a healing practitioner at the time I had a new lens to really look at the patterns, mindset and energy that – combined – kept leading me back to this place. I also noticed similar patterns unfolding with my clients, particularly those in the service-based, helping and entrepreneurial professions.
Eventually, I realised that a) there’s nothing wrong with being driven! I just had to figure out the right way to honour my energy and b) I could use all the tools I had at my disposal, to remove burnout once and for all and support my clients to do the same.
So how did I change without needing to surrender my passion for striving, learning and achieving those big, hairy goals?
#1 The first was to acknowledge that I am intrinsically driven by nature.
I love the feeling of achieving and learning (the outcome itself is often *ironically* neither here nor there lol!). I love that adrenaline kick from stepping outside my comfort zone, from stretching and feeling challenged. I love helping others, I love creating, I love learning. I love growing.
#2 The second was to understand myself deeply.
So that I could discern the difference between doing ‘the hard’ things to get to where I wanted to go – from pushing ‘too hard’. Part of this also meant doing significant work on healing underlying trauma – so I could remove overworking from my list of unhealthy coping mechanisms that I had developed over the years.
There were lots of personality tests taken, self-healing and personal development, counselling, and at one point – medication and supplements to support me. I also had to recognise that my physical disability left me often feeling ‘less than’ and that I needed to stop trying to ‘prove my worth’ compared to the ‘hard-working’ able-bodied folks I knew.
The more I understood, healed and re-aligned – the more I found I could use my drive in a really healthy way.
#3 The third was that I had to acknowledge the culture that I have grown up in.
Where it’s ok and even celebrated for men to be ‘driven’, successful and to have ambition – but less so for women (let alone healers and helping professionals!!). Recognising that whilst I love being a ‘caregiver’ and caring human (which are both celebrated and encouraged for women in my culture). I did not identify with that as being my only focus or identity. I could do BOTH. Recognising this conditioning was so helpful in being able to move beyond it.
What looks different now?
I’m still JUST as passionate and driven in my work however I’ve learnt how to apply my drive more equally across the board to my physical health (exercise) social life and joy (connecting with other humans outside of work) creating quality family time (being fully present with my family).
I’ve also learnt and implemented strategies to honour slowness and rest as being the fuel for my drive – not the opposite to it. I’d become so used to equating that adrenaline hit with success (thanks to all those A+ and the narrow focus on ‘achievement’ in school and life in general). Eventually, I was finally able to recognise there can’t be one without the other – at least not in a sustainable way of living.
In understanding and honouring that this inner drive was a big part of who I am, I was able to respect my need to stretch and learn but also place those desires within a framework of practical and healing strategies as well as strong boundaries for self-care.
Creating this more balanced equilibrium doesn’t make me less driven but actually allows me to have more energy when I need it because I’m fulfilled in multiple areas not just the area of hyperfocus or ‘achievement’.
3 things that help me stay driven without burning out:
#1 Listening to my body’s cues that help me know when ‘enough is enough’.
#2 Noticing the thoughts that begin to surface when I move from inspired to ‘obsessed’.
#3 Creating daily micro-habits and practices that support a mix of inspired action, rest and surrender.
I really believe that being driven is a superpower. I am so grateful to have the drive I have and it’s something most of my clients also possess. The trick is to learn how to be driven and look after our mind, body and spirit along the way too – so we can play the long game and really create an impact in the world with our purpose in life (whatever that may be for you!).
So if you’re hitting the edge of burnout, or feeling like you have become a slave to your inner – drive – there’s hope. And I’d love to help you reach out to me at helloATamandafreeman.com.au
In the meantime, a great place to start is to take my self-awareness checklist and get a clear view of your energy, habits and self-care as it stands now. You might be surprised at what you notice!