How to Go Big Without Burning Out
From one type A achiever to another: you can have fun doing it.
2.5 months ago, my boyfriend and I left our jobs to transition from being consumers to producers as well as travel all around the world to live our lives fully. No more “maybe someday” or “if we have/get enough time/money/clarity”… We decided to jump. Since then we have been experiencing compounding insights, ideas, and most importantly a shift in our mindset.
When we couldn’t leave the country to travel, we decided to start with learning homesteading skills and found a work exchange opportunity at an organic farm. One day, as we were working on the field, we both felt an inexplicable rush of excitement and entrepreneurial drive. We started dreaming about our future for the first time– without inhibition but with a pure belief in potential.
After the dreaming phase, we started executing our ideas. Interestingly, we started receiving ideas and opportunities from friends and strangers without any prompt. As we evolve our actions, we are discovering a great deal about who we are, how we execute, and what works. We are committed to making our dreams come true, but with one condition: it has to be fun. We are both done with pushing our way in, while compromising our physical and mental health.
We are done with narrow-minded thinking that success requires sacrifice. This time, we are doing it differently: going all-in without the burnout.
I am happy to say that our ideas are materializing successfully as we are living our best lives, with tons of fun. Here are some insights from walking the talk that can help you go after your dream while being centered:
Discern your drive: ambition vs. purpose
I have attempted to start a business before. I got my certification as a coach, went to countless trainings/workshops, and hired a business coach. I remember completing my website from start to finish in 1.5 months and seeing clients soon after. Sounds like success, right?
But, what I remember is the insomnia. I just had so much on my mind when I laid down at night. The anxious energy of completing the daily tasks built up and manifested as a major sleep disturbance. I kept pushing. After all, it was meant to be stressful and hard (at least that’s the general message I got from my environment at the time.)
After 6 months of insomnia, it became unbearable, so I stopped. Not, indignantly but thankfully. This seeming obstacle showed me I was fueled by ambition instead of purpose. I saw a big difference:
Ambition is the drive to achieve for the sake of success whereas purpose is the drive to create meaning.
It was meaningless for me to create anything if my life was miserable. I am sure it also reflected in the way I provided value to my audience, since I didn’t have the energy to focus on the real value. Now, I am focusing on building a close-knit connection with my purpose which includes modeling joyful creation.
Quick check-in: Imagine the day you achieved your big dream. You are looking back on the journey.
What was your “why”?
What would you like to say about your life through this process?
Give time and space your big vision to form and evolve
Another pitfall I fell into is the impatient push for my vision to be clear and complete, now. Some of us are born with certain talents and have great clarity on how to use them. But the majority of us need time for experimentation to unveil our gifts.
In the past, I wanted to sit down and write my vision, mission, business plan all at once in a short time, because I thought I needed clarity to act. But as Cathy Heller says in Don’t Keep Your Day Job: How to Turn Your Passion into Your Career, clarity follows action.
Now, I still make attempts to clarify and focus my efforts but with space for my vision to breathe and evolve. I feel the confidence that if I show up every day with enthusiasm to figure it out, life will cooperate to support my work.
The end result may not be what I thought it would be. Yet, it will be shaped and embellished with the gifts of life; synchronous connections, and expansive directions leading me to find the best way I can provide value.
Do you have room for life to refine your vision?
If you are stuck, where can you say “yes” to life and take a detour to learn more?
Separate your worth from your success
When we are afraid of failing because of a false belief that failure is a reflection of who we are, we trap ourselves in a stress and fear cycle. We dread the shame which then stifles creativity and joy of creation.
Instead, we can be like Richard Branson. He failed big time with “Virgin Flops” like Virgin Cola, Virgin Car, Virgin Pulse (like iPod), etc.. Yet, he keeps learning and creating — as a result, he is worth $4.3B. If he gave a damn about what failure meant for his identity, he would quit the first time he failed.
Digesting this view of failure has been crucial for me to give myself permission to relax and play. The more I see the work as a play, the more I get motivated to try new things or take a risk without being overly stressed. It is still a working progress though; I still soothe myself frequent reminders or affirmations normalizing risk and failure.
Quick check: If you find yourself pushing ruthlessly or burdened by stress while working, ask:
Who would I be without this success?
What am I afraid of losing?
Fear of failure goes hand in hand with unrealistic expectations for perfection. It is like the moment we are pregnant with an idea, we want to give birth to its perfect form.
You see, everything in nature goes through evolution to get better in time. Everything is always becoming, there is no perfect state. Our ideas are the same. They need to be nourished, lose shape to be reconstructed, and be in a safe space to mature.
The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection — George Orwell While the ideas are growing, all we need to do is to embrace “the imperfect”. Indeed, we should expect them to be mediocre. Only by doing and learning, can we learn to transform mediocracy into mastery.
Do you use the word “should/must” a lot? This indicates you hold a “perfect” model for yourself and life.
Do you feel paralyzed or find excuses to act on your ideas? What story do you tell yourself?
Take it one day at a time
It is so easy to ponder the destination point of your dream and feel overwhelmed. Do any of these statements sound familiar?
“I have no idea how to get there”. “It feels like so much work!” “I don’t have the skills or resources to do this!”
The destination is only a north star though. You follow it, but your attention is on what’s in front of you here and now. When things get tough, you focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
Now, whenever I feel knocked out by the grandeur of my dreams, I get back to balance by focusing on the excitement. I remind myself that my job is to do the work today, and tomorrow will take care of itself.
Have you broken down your dreams into daily actions?
How do you deal with the feelings of overwhelm?
Measure your success by joy and learning
Just like I did in the past if you believe that joy isn’t necessarily part of execution (think of people who told you “life is hard”, “oh, it was so stressful to achieve my goals”), slowly drop that belief and walk away:)
Success is an attitude game. So is joy.
It doesn’t mean your journey will be all rosy and easy. But, difficulty doesn’t exclude fun. When you view every obstacle, failure, or steep learning curve as the necessary ingredients for you to grow, you can even get to a point you welcome and seek difficulty.
It is like a video game. Without encountering the enemies or obstacles, there is no way to level up. Plus, it would be boring without a challenge. You play it because you derive fun from overcoming the challenges.
With this attitude, I’ve found ways to make my daily work enjoyable. It sucks at the beginning. But, when I change my mindset and add some creative touches, the same tedious/hard work transforms into something I feel proud of tackling and have fun doing it.
For example; when I get up early to write (not a morning person at all), I love finding inspiring hand drum music, pour my rich coffee, and imagine the creative thoughts firing between my gut and brain. After a few hours, I emerge on the other side of the challenge victorious and joyful.
So, success is not only whether you are getting closer to your goal, but also how you are getting to it. If you are learning and having fun, you are on the right track.
What are your beliefs about success and joy? Why?
What can you shift/add to make your work more fun?
What we are learning is you don’t have to give up your health or joy to become successful. The journey to success is your life, whereas the end goal is brief contentment. So, explore and be present with your journey, do the work but let life help you take it to the next level, and most importantly don’t forget to make it fun!