Burnout is Beautiful

Zen Habits

Hailing from Guam it's a pleasure to introduce Leo Babauta, who will be providing the frank community with inspiration and tactics on setting and achieving your goals each and every week, check out his blog Zen Habits

Everyone experiences burnout.

Day 7 of 365

Maybe you feel overworked, sick of your marriage or stressed about money. Maybe you’re living a daily cliché: one step forward, two steps back. Life can be tricky like that.

 

Believe it or not, burnout can be a beautiful thing. Instead of surrendering to burnout, what if you could use it to transform your life? Just like the story of the Phoenix, what if burnout was a chance for rebirth?

Four years ago I was overworked, stressed and a bit burned out. Now, I’m in a much different place. Here’s what I’ve done since 2007 to help redefine my life.

    * Quit smoking for good (after failing more than eight times)
    * Eliminated over $42,000 in debt.

    * Convinced my employer to let me work from home two days a week.
    * Stuck to a budget so we could live on one income which allowed me to …
    * Quit my day job.
    * Started to eat right and exercise.
    * Ended my relationship with stuff.
    * Wrote a novel in a month.
    * Defined myself as a hybrid homemaker. Now, I am home when my step kids return from school. I’ve also kept my professional identity through freelance writing.
    * Showed others how to live the same way in my first ebook, The Hybrid Homemaker.

None of this would have been possible without burnout. If I hadn’t reached a point where I felt exhausted, beaten down, burned out … I never would have come up from the ashes.

I’m here to show you how you can rise from the ashes, too. If your path in life feels crooked, you can turn around and take one step forward. That’s the beauty of this story. If I can do it, so can you.

Burnout is beautiful. It gives you the chance to:

 

Imagine.

I never thought we could live on one income until I imagined a life without debt. Really? People lived on one income? “What if,” I thought and the rest is history. Burnout led me to imagine a life where I didn’t have to work to support the family. That changed everything. What could your life look like? If you’re unhappy at work, there is another way to make money. Start imagining it. Even a simple internet search can help. If you are crushed by debt, there is a way to change that. Imagine your life without limits. Someone else is already living your dream life – start wondering, “How did they do that?”
 

Become the artist.

The desire to change starts with you. Once you feel it, use that passion to experiment and try new things. Become the artist – life is the masterpiece. To get healthy, you might challenge yourself to 10 minutes of exercise each morning. Looking to transform your diet? Eat like Leo. Take a stand against debt by cutting up your credit cards. Burnout brings strong emotions like anger, fear, jealousy and sadness. Use those feelings to light your creativity on fire. Keep mixing it up with new ideas and projects.
 

Set people free.

Don’t expect your employer to relieve stress at work. Don’t expect your lover to make you happy. Your burnout is not their responsibility. Give yourself permission to do all the work. Setting people free from your expectations will put you back in control. You can be burnout’s victim or victor. Find one reason to do something, not a million reasons to quit. Now, no one stands in your way.

Focus on tiny movements.

That’s all it takes to change your life. If you want to quit smoking, you can stop putting a cigarette in your mouth and lighting the end. Once you master the way you move, you can do anything. You can decide to write instead of go out to lunch. You can put away the beer and go to bed early. You can feel your feet on the ground for a run. Movements, no matter how small, shape your entire life. How you go through the motions is up to you. Ask yourself today: Is the way I move beautiful? Or destructive?

Start over.

Change can be slow, but it has to start somewhere. For me, burnout became beautiful when I fed new ideas to my broken spirit. Inspiration was everywhere once I wanted to look. Sites like The Happiness Project and Zen Habits gave me courage to begin a new life.

I know now: Burnout is just the beginning. It might feel awful at times. If it didn’t, how would you know when to try something new? Let your imagination fly. Learn what lights up your world before burnout defines it. Ask yourself for help first. Then, start with tiny movements. Tiny actions. Like building a new foundation, brick by brick, you can create something strong and beautiful.

 
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  • As a guy who's probably been close to the burnout stage for a while, it's a relief to put that change into perspective (he says as he throws out that packet of cigarettes).

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