The Homicidal Monk
In my head there is a meditating monk, seemingly peaceful and serene, about to choke the living daylights out of the impatient man on his left. I’m trying my best to keep that man alive. It’s no easy feat.
I enjoy my morning jog where I normally have my mind free to wander. It’s a peaceful time where I start contemplating various topics and ideas. It’s where a lot of my ideas for books, blog posts, projects, and other things are generated. It’s where I thought up this one.
Sometimes I just let whatever thoughts I have start to run around in my head. Other times I start the jog already keyed in on a particular topic and I just put the pedal to the metal. Either way, I typically come back in, stand at my computer and type for the next 15-30 minutes.
I Just Can’t Stop
But today was different. I had taken the day off so I already had well over an hour to write. I spent about half of that time working on my book and the other half on my new Linked In profile. I’m excited about both because I think they will be a blast to read and will really engage an audience.
And that’s the problem. I have been writing like a fiend! It seems I can’t stop. Every day I have tons of things on my to do list: reading, praying, guitar practice, talking to my sons, writing (blog, book, and video script), working on my career, cardio, sometimes weights, and other odds and ends. And that is without counting my work day or spending time with my kids – time I strive to spend without distraction.
But this writing has been such a blast, and the ideas don’t stop. They keep flooding in. With my book, I know the material backward and forward. It’s material I’ve presented in workshops I’ve created that thousands of people have seen and even more have benefited from. I have presented it so many times I can basically do it in my sleep.
But I keep coming up with ideas on how to write it in a more engaging or fun way. Or I think of new stories that will help people understand or new examples that will cement the ideas. It just doesn’t stop, not that I’m complaining.
Not Taking a Breath Is Fatal
Yet I know from personal experience that pushing too hard, no matter how fun, can end up turning a joy into a drag. It can change passion into disgust. So I know that I don’t need to push myself too far. I need to make time for other things.
And so, as I’m on my run just enjoying the scenery, listening to a few good tunes. I try to spend my running time listening and then my cool down time letting my mind wander. But today it’s different. Today I’m about halfway into my run and voice starts in my head: “Hey! What are we thinking about today?”
In my mind I see a monk, meditating peacefully, oblivious to this intrusion, or so it would seem. “We have all this time! We’ve already ran 12 minutes without thinking about anything… we still have time!” The depths of the impatience radiated out, and you could feel the blood boiling within the now, not-so-peaceful figure. I didn’t think that impatient man was going to last long. Perhaps, metaphorically, it was time to slow down and take a breath.
In truth there is an important question here: when is it okay to stop? If you’re like me, you’ve read tons of success books, blogs, and magazines. You’ve seen all the articles saying that you have to outlast the other people out there. You need to keep going.
All of this is true, but at the same time, every one of us needs a full night’s sleep. That means every one of us needs to stop basically every day for quite some time. It’s great to push a little harder and to grow a little more, but when is it too much? When does the fire we are stoking to catapult our success start to burn us out?
There are many ways to avoid burnout while still pushing yourself a little harder to make a better life for yourself. I believe you can boil the important part’s down to three things:
First you need to know what drives you. Are you driven by physical challenge or do you excel despite it? Are you drawn in by mental puzzles and problems or do you do everything you can to get past them as quickly as possible? You must know whether the activity you are pursuing is energizing you or draining you and you must limit those activities that do the latter.
2. Know Your Priorities
You have to know what is important to you. To me, my boys are number one. I have had many opportunities to make more money, change careers, and move up the ladder that I had to decline in order to make time for my boys. To me, if I reach the end of my life and have built entire cities but consider my kids strangers my life will have been in vain. I know that I want to have a strong relationship with my boys, help people become their best, make a difference in the world, and be healthy and well rounded. These priorities help me balance everything else out.
3. Making Time For Others
Finally, you need to make sure you make time for more than just the stuff that drives you. This isn’t necessarily just for people. You need to make time for the people in your life, but you also need to make time for the other things in your life. You need to make time for other hobbies and other activities. You need to make time for your health. What’s the point of having a billion dollars if you end up bedridden?
The best way to avoid burnout is to know how you are driven and work within it, know what’s important to you and what things you can let go as needed, and make time for people and other activities. This will not only help you avoid burnout, it will help you enjoy life, even if there is an imaginary monk in your head.