How to Avoid Burnout and Keep Pursuing your Passion!

Hey everyone, I hope you’re enjoying your Saturday.

I spent the morning chewing over some aphorisms from Nassim Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes while having some Bulletproof coffee. If you’re looking for some stimulating and sometimes controversial ideas to think about about, definitely check out Taleb’s book.

I also read my daily post from Maria Popova’s blog, brainpickings.org. I cannot recommend it highly enough. She’s an amazing writer and has an uncanny ability to take history’s greatest ideas and convey them in cogent, concise language.

Now, onto the actual content:

If you’ve ever felt drained, burnt out, or sick of something that you used to love, this one’s for you.

I’ve found that the pursuit of passion often cycles through different seasons.

It starts with an idea. Maybe you get this great idea for a product, or hear of a dietary regimen that speaks to you. You feel excited. You’re inspired. You get this burst of energy that sets you on the path towards making your idea a reality.

In the beginning, everything seems to be going well. Things are hard and the hours are long, but you expected as much. You have both the passion and drive to keep things going – it’s a labor of love.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, motivation begins to falter. Maybe things aren’t going as well as you thought they would, or the hours of work are getting too long for the rewards you’re getting. Hell, a lot of the time, life just rears its ugly head and kicks you in the ass, and you have to take care of other important things like family, relationships, the bills, etc.

By the time you get back, you’ve lost momentum. It’s harder to get back into the groove and the fire you once had for the work is all but gone. When we find ourselves in this situation, a lot of us end up calling it quits, saying stuff like “shit happens” and “it was a phase.”

Take this blog for example. When I first started it some 15 months ago, I felt the same inspired spark. I managed to churn out a couple posts in the beginning. It was hard. There were problems – I wasn’t disciplined and I didn’t know how to make the most of my time, but it was fun and I loved doing it.

But then I started work teaching 7th graders at a summer school, I started training for a BJJ tournament. I missed a couple weeks of writing and by then, I had lost what little momentum that I had.

I was stuck in the exact spot that I described earlier.

There are tons of areas in our lives that fall victim to these “slumps.”

We start a new diet and stay super disciplined and strict with our meals for the first couple weeks but then something comes up – a birthday party, a dinner out with friends, and we cave. We gorge ourselves on chocolate cake and then call it quits.

Or when we start a workout plan. The first couple weeks are hard and we’re sore all over but it feels good, and one day we find ourselves rationalizing why it’s ok to skip out “just this once.”

As students, we tend to feel inspired and driven as we enter the semester only to burn out after a couple weeks (or days) of hard work.

Why does this happen to us? Why do we work our asses off only to lose motivation later on? Why do we get burnt out?

There’s a lot of literature out there that attempts to answer these questions way better than I could. I recommend checking out, The Power of Habit, or Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength for a more in-depth look at how these processes work.

But we don’t need a comprehensive analysis to tell us how we feel before we end up quitting.

Passion is a feeling that, by its nature, must be directed towards something. When aimed at a particular object or goal, passion has the power to produce amazing amounts of energy and motivation.

But passion, like energy and willpower, is a finite resource. Each of us only has so passion to spend before we exhaust our supply. Just as a car can’t move anywhere without fuel, if we’ve used up all of our passion, it’s unlikely that we will want to muster the energy to continue pursuing whatever it was we were passionate about.

Think of passion and the energy that it produces as seeds to be sown. It is true that you reap what you sow, and if you sow no seeds, there will be no harvest for you to reap. But if you sow all of your seeds at once and a storm wipes out our entire crop, you will have neither a bountiful harvest nor any seeds left to sow.

Life is pay to play. Whether it’s energy, money, or time, whatever it is, you have to put something in to get anything out. But it’s important that we balance the resources that we spend.

Always keep something in the tank. Don’t burn up all of your fuel at once.

If you’re starting a new training regimen, don’t go in on the first day and completely waste yourself on all of the exercises.

If you’re starting a new diet plan, don’t use up all of your motivation and willpower by depriving yourself of the foods you love all at once.

Do it progressively. It’s much better to write 250 words every weekday over a month than to write 4000 in one day and then not write for 29 days straight.

Steady progress every day builds momentum, which makes it progressively easier to keep going. Becoming our best selves takes time and consistent effort. Bruce Wayne trained all over the world for 15 years before he became Batman. We’re in this for the long haul.

Til’ next time.

– Becoming Batman