My favorite book as a kid was “The Little Engine That Could”. I had my parents read it to me over and over and over again, I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted to hear how the little engine overcame his fear and was able to climb the mountain by just repeating to himself, “I think I can, I think I can.”
That became my mantra – in my career, in my life. I CAN. I can have a great career. I can have a great relationship, a great social life, great health and so much more. I can have it all and it had to be perfect.
I kept moving and pushing forward to cram in all of the things I wanted. My can-do attitude got me more responsibility at work. I had not one role, not two but 3 roles all at the same time After a long day at work no matter how exhausted I was I’d rush off to see my friends or race to the gym. All day long and even in the middle of the night my mind would be thinking about all the things I needed to do now to get it all perfect now.
One day in my constant whirlwind of activity and running around I found myself in the eye of the storm. My body came to a complete halt – literally. One minute I was in a conversation the next minute I was on the floor unconscious. When I came to I freaked. In my wide-eyed shock the question, “What if I had been driving a car when this happened?” surged through my brain. The reality of I would not be here hit me hard. I could have easily lost my life and career.
I was plain exhausted, on edge and feeling burnt out but I didn’t notice until my body gave out on me. I didn’t get the red flags earlier that something was wrong like being irritated on a daily basis by all sorts of things like small requests from people that normally would not have bothered me, having brain fog and a dilapidated memory trying to remember if I sent an email or not. Worst of all anxiety was a constant companion of mine –what if disaster scenarios plagued my mind.
If you are on the fast track to being burnt out and this sounds like you here are the first basic steps it takes to readjust and recoup:
Rome was not built in a day and neither is your life. Instant gratification is the norm today. We get texts, emails, downloads in a split second but building a career, a relationship or running a marathon don’t happen that fast.
It takes consistent effort over time. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you live your life? One moment and step at a time. Celebrate the steps you are taking toward your bigger goals and dreams no matter how small or insignificant they may feel.
Taking a seemingly insufficient step forward can eventually lead you to the prize. You won’t know which one will be a home run until you have tried so keep on going.
It’s ok not to have it all perfect right now. Let go of how things should be versus what you want them to be. It’s great to have goals but there are many ways of getting there.
Think about it. The last time you achieved something in your life did it go exactly the way you thought it would? Did all the steps it took to get there go like you thought they would? Accept where you are now. Detach yourself from how you think it should be and leave other possibilities open.
Focus on what is truly important
Focus on what you can realistically do in one day, one week and one year. Not everyone can climb Mount Everest tomorrow but everyone can prepare to climb it tomorrow. If there is a goal or dream of yours that doesn’t light you up then scratch it off your list. Focus on what you want and enjoy.
In the book “Success Built to Last: Creating a Life that Matters” enduringly successful people developed the habit of always choosing in favor of things which have deep personal meaning for them.
What helped me was just focusing on the top five things that were truly important and meaningful to me. What top five things are important to you and give you a lot of satisfaction and joy?
Soon after my own collapse health became a major priority for me. My experience is a good reminder of how much I didn’t know about what I was doing to my health even though I thought I had it right. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble had I known what I know now. I went back to school soon afterwards to learn more about what happened to me and nowadays I teach and write about health and wellness to help others avoid my mistakes.