I burnt out because, for years, I kept a crazy schedule and pursued my goals in an unsustainable way. In hindsight, the warning signs were there, but I ignored them because, unfortunately, I wasn’t in control of my goals. Instead, they controlled me. I kept lying to myself that if I pressed a little harder for a little longer, I would eventually achieve a big enough goal and give my body the rest it needed. Eventually, I crashed.
If we pursue our goals in an unsustainable way, we all run the risk of burning out. The good news is that I burnt out, so you don’t have to.
There are a number of different methods by which we can achieve goals and live our dream sustainably, without running that risk.
The first step is to count the cost. We fail to realise our full potential when we underestimate the cost. I use H E A R T as an acronym to remember the costs because to achieve your dream; your H E A R T has to be in it for the long haul. H E A R T stands for Heath, Emotional, Affordability (Financial), Relationship and Time Costs.
Health: Regardless of how healthy we are, if we do not pace ourselves in pursuit of our goals, we can end up placing unhealthy demands on our bodies. In extreme cases, these can result in challenges that can kill us.
Emotional: The emotional cost of pursuing dreams is possibly the most under-appreciated of the five costs. You will experience rejection, failure, disappointment, and crushing lows on your journey to your goals. Our emotional strength runs dry without a big WHY and the correct input from helpful resources such as books and confidants.
Affordability: Do you understand how much your dream will cost you financially? No one can answer this question but you. Another real question is whether you are willing to invest all you have in your goals?
Relationship: Are you able to let go of relationships to achieve your goals? There are two relationship costs you potentially have to pay- the cost of potentially losing relationships and also drawing on meaningful relationships in times of struggle.
Time: How long are you willing to wait? Your dream won’t come true overnight; it takes time. There is a period in the pursuit of your dream where it really doesn’t matter how bad you want it, how hard you work or how much you push; it’ll take time. One problem for people who give up or burn out is setting unrealistic time scales or expecting results sooner than they are likely to come.
I have developed five unspoken rules that guide me and many other people in living victorious lives sustainably. These tools will help you pay the costs of your goals effectively and sustainably.
1: Recognise: There’s a difference between quitting and giving up. Don’t be afraid to quit something for the greater good of your dream, but never give up on your dream. I have quit jobs or projects that were either toxic or which I had outgrown because I knew it was time. Some people feel like quitting is giving up; this is a mistake. For a rocket to keep going higher, it has to drop the weight it no longer needs.
2: Realise: Pay close attention to your health and lifestyle. Don’t ignore the warning signs of potential burnout. It’s always better to pause, rest and re-energise than to burn out.
3: Rest: Give your spirit, soul and body the rest it needs, regularly. We simply can’t go fast all the time. Sometimes moments of progress are faster than others, but we must rest and look after ourselves in order to make progress sustainably.
4: Review: The fact that you should never give up does not mean that you should not review periodically how things are going and what changes you need to make to keep progressing. Always be open to making changes, or stepping back, in order to maintain healthy limits.
5: Relaunch: We fulfil our dreams by ROARing towards them. We need to maintain the Right pace on our journey to get to each milestone Ontime whilst maintaining a great Attitude and doing things the Rightway.
To be in control of our lives, rather than feeling like goals and other external forces are controlling us, we have a choice to make. We can either pursue our goals sustainably or we proceed in an unsustainable way and risk eventual burn out.
The truth is we never know where our tipping point is. It comes suddenly, so the best way to achieve our goals and live successfully is to approach life sustainably.
Uche Ezichi is an executive coach, speaker and facilitator with extensive experience working in and with FTSE 100 companies and leading business schools worldwide. His new book, Count the Cost: The 5 Unspoken Rules of Sustainable Success, is out now.