October 6

KEY 024: How to Avoid Burnout



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One of the greatest challenges of high achievers is avoiding burnout. You here mythical stories of great entrepreneurs and athletes going to Herculean lengths to achieve their dreams. However, you seldom hear the back story of emotional breakdowns, substance abuse, and increased mental health issue as a result of running at an unsustainable pace.

Even when what you do is intrinsically rewarding, when you do it excessively you activate your fight or flight response. Eventually, you no longer find any pleasure or even dread the activity. One of the reasons this is so is due to the brain being designed to flee a stressor: you want to flee from what is causing you stress, even if you are passionate about it.

The Chemical Reality of Burnout

Another cause of burnout is depleted neurotransmitter levels. You go through your neurotransmitters at a higher pace when you are stressing your system. This results in fatigue, a decreased capacity for managing stress, and generally just feeling bad.

The greatest antidote for burnout is to give back without an attached reward.


The most common recommendation for burnout is rest. However, for many of us this is not often a feasible option. Another possibility is what is referred to as the “give to get back” approach. This was developed by Shelley Taylor, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Adam Grant, Ph.D., of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Helping others activates reward and pleasure centers in the brain.”

The Very Best Thing You Can Do to Avoid Burnout

This method is about giving back in your field through mentoring, volunteering, or some form of helping others. Helping others activates reward and pleasure centers in the brain. Dr. Grant’s book, Give and Take, shows giving back is an antidote to burnout. It associates positive emotions with your pursuit, which can increase energy and motivation.

The key factor in the concept of “give to get back” is not just doing something altruistic but using activities closely linked to your work to give back from. This results in an increased level of pleasure, reward, and positive associations with your work-related activity. Furthermore, this is a more realistic option for the majority of us who cannot take extended breaks due to financial obligations and other commitments.

There is more than one side to every success story

Remember, success is not success if you cannot sustain it. To become truly elite requires achieving longevity. Don’t buy into the one-sided stories of famed peak performers who are here today and gone tomorrow. Commit to being in it for the long haul. In addition, you want to be able to enjoy the journey. Delaying happiness until you arrive at your destination is a trap. In reality, the journey is the destination. Develop a rhythm for your pursuit. Not only will you be able to sustain passion and motivation, but you will be much more fulfilled and joyful along the way.

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About the author 

John Hawkins Jr. & Paul Desmond Adams

John and Paul work together to bring real scienced-based personal development strategies to people frustrated with poor results from past efforts. John is a licensed psychotherapist and peak performance strategist while Paul is a former national radio host with decades of experience in personal development, productivity strategies, as well as expertise in digital media.

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