How to Burn Yourself Out in Three Quick and Easy Steps

by Andy Wood on October 27, 2008

in Ability, Consumers, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, Money, Pleasers, Time

We pass a word around our office that my associate once used to describe me, and it stuck:  Crispy.

He used it a few years ago when he and our office manager decided they’d seen enough of me in the state I was in and informed me that I was taking my wife on an R & R trip to the mountains.  My reservations had been made, and they weren’t taking “no” for an answer.

I hope to God you have somebody who looks out for you like that.  I wasn’t aware of how emotionally and physically fried I was.  The sad truth about stress, crispiness, and burnout is that often others see their effects on us before we do.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve been crispy, and it probably won’t be the last.  But there’s a further step that can be devastating.  Burnout, in a clinical sense, means you have completely exhausted every form of energy necessary to continue.  More than just losing interest (“I’m sort of burned out on jazz these days”), I’m talking about those times people go to their wells and find them completely dry.  Times when people shock those who know them best by walking away from relationships, careers, or wisdom.

“Stress makes people stupid,” a management consultant once told Daniel Goldman. Burnout reveals it to the world.

So how do people get in such a state – past stress, past crispy, all the way to emotionally nuked?  Let me suggest three quick and easy recipes for complete emotional, mental, or spiritual exhaustion:

1.  Run on fumes for extended periods of time.

Keep going with little sleep, taxing your heart with poor dietary or lifestyle habits, or working on call 24/7.

Keep managing your stress with alcohol or nicotine.

Keep living a prayerless or worship-less life, depending on your own abilities to somehow keep going.

Keep saying “yes” to every request, demand, or suggestion somebody hurls at you.

Keep skipping those vacations.

Assume doctors are for “those really sick people.”

Go ahead and over-commit yourself again, believing somehow that your higher-ups will finally notice your hard work and reward it accordingly.  After all, if your wife and kids can notice it so easily, surely your boss(es) can.

Keep offering concern, support, and comfort to hurting people and never ask for support or encouragement yourself.  Who cares that even the Pope has a confessor?  YOU certainly don’t need anybody to talk to, pray with, or share the load.  You just keep right on handling all the problems yourself.

But if you agree to do all that, would you do us all a favor and pin a note on your shirt where to send the body?

2.  Continue to spend yourself in ways you aren’t talented or gifted.

Keep doing those extroverted things with your introverted personality, or vise-versa.

Keep insisting that you can figure it out, that you can be as good at whatever as that gifted all-star.

Keep “working on your weaknesses” instead of pursuing and capturing your genius.

Keep neglecting the things you’re really good at or passionate about in the name of making a living.

Keep believing that somehow things are going to get better, and that someday you’ll finally get to do what you’re gifted, called, or drawn to.  Someday.

Never admit that you suck at something, and that others are more qualified or talented to do what you’re attempting.  Insist instead that only you can provide that skill or service.

Keep trying to figure out how to do what you know you can’t do, in an effort to impress or please people you don’t really like.

3.  Eliminate all margin or gaps from your life.

Stay connected, to all people, at all times.  Keep living as a slave to your Blackberry or iPhone, with no opportunities to disengage from constant interruptions.  Have two phone numbers, a pager, text messaging and email, all with instant notification.

Spend $1.01 (or $1.10) of every dollar you make.

Get up every day with barely enough time to be at work (or wherever you’re going), assuming traffic will cooperate.

Keep some kind of noise – TV, music, anything – going at all times.

Always arrive stylishly late to every event.

Manage your stress with “retail therapy;” who cares if you can’t afford the payments?  You’ll figure it out.

Put things off until you absolutely have to do them; after all, you work best under pressure.

Keep doing the same old work motions, mindlessly boring yourself with those repetitive tasks.

Most of us are remarkably resilient – for a while.  But everyone, including you, has limitations.  And you don’t always know what they are! Who would you trust to tell you you’re crispy?  And who have you given permission to kidnap you away from killing yourself?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Cassie October 28, 2008 at 9:36 am

I like this one…probably because I can identify right now…I’d say I’ve been feeling a bit “crispy” myself this last week or so. Now I just have to figure out what’s going to give….because something has to!

Andy Wood October 28, 2008 at 10:05 am

I know you’re in a squeezing season that nobody understands unless they’ve gone to seminary. I’m praying for you, baby. Get some rest, say “no” to something, and always turn in your video tapes!

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