In Praise Of Calling It Quits: What To Do When You’re Burned Out, & How To Get Your Spark Back
Burned out. Exhausted. Empty. Apathetic.
Drained. Hopeless. Totally effing over it. Hit the wall. Sick of it. Breaking point. The last straw. Done & dusted.
Everyone has a limit. What should you do when you reach yours?
Some people will tell you that you need to KEEP PUSHING at all costs. They’ll trot out every cliché in the book: It’s better to burn out than fade away. Fake it ’til you make it. Work your fingers to the bone. They’ll say that if you don’t do these things, then you might as well walk away. You’re a failure. How could you? We’re so disappointed in you. You could have been so much more.
I call bullshit. If you wanna get that spark back, try this instead…
1. Embrace your true feelings. If you feel exhausted, TAKE A REST. If you’re sick of working on something, TAKE A BREAK. If you feel burned out, DO SOMETHING ELSE. This is not rocket science — it’s very obvious. When you’re tired, you go to sleep, right? Yet when it comes to work, projects & relationships, somehow we keep denying ourselves what we need. You can’t race around at 500mph all the time.
What we resist, persists. The more you think about how much you despise something, the more of it you notice. You simply cannot rail against something & expect it to improve. If we keep telling ourselves we hate something, but we keep working away at it, we’re only going to attract more unpleasantness into our lives. How could things possibly get better from this point?
No heavenly being is waiting at the end of the line, giving out awards for sadomasochism. Give yourself a break.
2. Continually plugging away at something which doesn’t light your fire has never — & will never — inspire anything wonderful. It just creates mediocrity, & the world doesn’t need any more of that. Better to take a break & come back to things once you’ve filled your soul back up.
How to fill your soul up: Get out of your house. Go somewhere else. Take a train. Spend some time in a library. Visit your friends. Get some sleep. Volunteer your time. Cancel all your so-called obligations. Use your hands. Redecorate. Clean out your closet. Plan a holiday. Read a huge stack of books. Take dancing classes. Call your mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, best friend. Spend hours in cafés, watching people. Do a juice cleanse. Go to the movies. Meditate. Go on a retreat. Wait it out.
3. Put simply, radical self love means not pushing yourself to the point of immune system failure.
Take care of yourself. This means fleeing an abusive relationship, leaving a soul-sucking job, & kissing your horrible friends au revoir. You are worth more.
4. If you’re sick of something, you have two choices. You can bury your head in the sand & keep pushing forward, or you can use this as a chance to investigate what isn’t working for you. Maybe the project isn’t in alignment with your values. Maybe it’s not interesting to you anymore. Or maybe you’ve just been doing it too long.
Either way, when we look at what isn’t working, we can learn so much about ourselves, our values & what is really important.
5. Why are we so afraid to say no? Why are we so scared to come back to something later? Do we think that in that short amount of time we’re gone, we’ll be forgotten about? (Baby, you are unforgettable.)
Sometimes a break is just what you need. Maybe in that week, month, or year off, you’ll discover something which will totally reinvigorate you. Maybe it will inspire you to take it up again with a brilliant new spin.
I quit a project last summer. I felt like I’d been kicked in the teeth; it was hard. I was so surprised by the outcome that I dropped the whole thing. It has taken me six months to want to get back on the horse again, & this time, I’m doing it with renewed vigor, an expanded vision of what it will be, & a badass attitude.
6. Taking a break from a project or a person or a piece of work doesn’t mean it’s over. It doesn’t make you a failure or a flake. Perhaps it’s just not the right time. Good things need to gestate properly. Nothing is ever over until you say so.
7. Having said this, maybe if you take a break, you’ll never go back to it. You know what? If this happens, that’s okay! In fact, that’s GREAT! It simply opens up more space for better opportunities, more magic, & even greater serendipity. It creates room for that thing you’ve been desiring with a burning passion.
8. The world is gunning for you to succeed. We want you to be brilliant! Don’t be paranoid or afraid. Don’t be scared that while you’re taking a break, someone else is going to jump up & take your place.
In this world, there is no competition, no race; that’s just in your head. There is enough room for all of us to be happy, successful & utterly incredible. Scarcity thinking is what got us into this mess in the first place!
9. I think if we look at our lives honestly, ALL of us have something we should quit. We all have things that we do because we feel like we “have to”, & this is nonsense.
Whether it’s a friendship, a part-time job or a series of obligations, life gets better when we commit ONLY to what we TRULY love & desire.
10. You have permission to step back, let go, walk away. This is the yes you’ve been waiting for. Yes. It’s okay. You are allowed.
Sometimes we have to go to the other side of the world to find our spark again; sometimes, we simply have to cross the street. The point is this: you won’t discover your magic, your truth, by chaining yourself to your computer & stubbornly working away. You will only find it when you seek it.