This is the final post on the series on burnout.
By this point, you've read a lot of causes of burnout and many suggestions for combating it. Are you still wondering why you get a headache every time you think about working on your goal?
Sometimes our goals seem fine. They're measurable, we put a timeline to them, and they're things we really want – or think we want. But still they've lost their ability to motivate us, and as a result we feel bereft, bored, or just plain blah. If this sounds familiar, you may think that there's something wrong with you – you're not disciplined, you lack commitment, or you simply don't have what it takes.
Don't be so hasty to get down on yourself. The problem may not be you: It may be with your goal. If you haven't found yourself in the previous sections but are still suffering from burnout, here's one more possibility: Your goal is stale.
Let me explain: In order to have the capacity to motivate, our goals need to captivate us – not just logically, but emotionally. The logic part is important, sure, but even more important is the ability to ignite our passion and capture our imaginations. If your goal makes logical sense (“Get into law school,”) but your heart isn't in it, you could be suffering from stale-goal-itis.
Before you chuck all those LSAT practice exam books, though, do some evaluation. You could still want to be a lawyer in your heart of hearts, but you haven't painted a bright enough picture to involve your emotions. You know logically that going to law school is the right thing to do, and it even feels right, but you aren't captivated.
Sometimes stale-goal-itis occurs when we've been working on a goal for so long that we take it for granted. We know we're working towards a larger picture – launching a company to become financially independent – but it's become words on a page rather than a living, breathing dream. It's the living, breathing dreams that get us through the downtimes!
Your goal can also lose its luster if it's so far off that any and all progress seems just a drop in the bucket. For instance, when you're an ultra-marathon-runner, passing the quarter-mile mark doesn't give you much motivation when you know you have 49.75 miles ahead of you.
Fortunately, in these situations, it's not that your goal is wrong; it merely needs some freshening up. We'll talk about how to do that in the next section.
Solution: Make Your Goal Come Alive
So by now you know that having a great goal is only the first step. For it to truly motivate you through times of trouble, low energy, and even burnout, you need to make your goals come alive. Fleshed-out, passion- and emotion-filled goals are the ones that are going to have you getting up early to hit the gym or staying up late to add one more post to your new blog. While logic may tell you what to do, passion motivates you to do it.
Consider the difference between saying, “I want to lose 20 pounds so I can look good at my college reunion,” versus, “I want to lose 20 pounds so I can go buy a knock-'em-dead little black dress from the swankiest boutique in town, wear it to my college reunion next month, and make all those sorority girls who were so mean to me fall over in a dead faint because I look so good. Oh, and my freshman dorm crush will see me and dump his wife to run away with me.”
Which goal do you think has the chops to inspire? Duh.
If you're wondering how to make your dream come alive, it's actually quite simple. Thanks to Oprah, “The Secret,” and other New Age-y gurus, we're all familiar with concepts like “visualizations” and creating vision boards. These “woo-woo” techniques are not magic; they're tools that have been used for decades to motivate.
Think about the basketball coach who has his players imagine playing – and beating – their big rival. Or the aspiring novelist who lies in bed at night, imagining what she'll say when she's interviewed on the “Today” show. Or the next Justin Bieber, singing his ten-year-old heart out in front of his bedroom mirror while imagining he's performing in front of thousands. These are just visualizations.
If you want to make your dreams and goals come alive, you need to add texture, emotion, and color to them. What will it feel like when you walk across the stage to accept your law school diploma? Exactly what store are you going to buy your reunion dress from, and what shoes will you wear with it? Who will be in the audience at your first book reading? This isn't mindless dreaming; it's creating the blueprint for your future success. Plus it's a lot of fun!
If there's one thing to remember from this post, it's that logic gives you the quickest route to your goal, but emotion makes the time fly.
It's natural to face some burnout along the way to your goals. Sometimes it's as a result of working hard, sometimes it's because you aren't clear on where you're going, and sometimes it's because you're not passionate enough about your end goal. Whatever your goal, and whatever the cause of your burnout, I hope that this short report has given you some concrete ideas about how to revitalize your spirit.
Remember always that you don't have to do this – whatever “this” is – alone. If you still need some motivation or support, find an online group or coach who can help guide you through the process. Dreaming and making those dreams into reality can be a lonely business. I'd be honored to assist you in the process.