Facing Burnout In The Midst of Following Your Dreams

Do you ever find yourself facing burnout in the midst of chasing a goal that is slowly starting to feel like a lofty pursuit? 

It happens to the very best of us even if we start out with major ambitions and a body full of energy and drive! 

I was listening to Rachel Hollis’ podcast RISE the other day and she featured a guest named Ken Coleman who is a part of the Dave Ramsey network. 

I’ve never listened to him speak before but I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and thought that he had a lot of good points in relation to pursuing your dreams as an entrepreneur or in pursuit of your best life. 

What I found most compelling was his discussion around burnout or what he calls “buildup on the heart.” He is extremely charismatic as a speaker and referenced his book, linked below "The Proximity Principle" as his go-to strategy for identifying a career that you are passionate about and putting yourself in a position to go and get the career or success that you desire. 

Whether you call it "buildup on the heart or my preferred terminology, “burnout” I think that either effectively describes what many of us often feel. I began to chew on this idea of burnout but more in relation of pursuing our dreams, our best selves through life, and in achieving success in life. 
This of course made me want to do a post about the idea of burnout in those seemingly lofty pursuits

So let’s take a deep dive in analyzing what exactly our dreams and aspirations are and why at some point in life we may start to feel this weight of burnout in pursuing them. Is it a fact of life that we will all feel it at one point or another in that pursuit? 
A major point that Ken Coleman mentioned in relation to feeling burnout in what at times may feel like a lofty pursuit through life was that sometimes we like our job but we don’t love it. 

In some respects this idea feels obvious but it is also a bit disheartening for me to consider when I put it into a broader contextual sense from a generational perspective.
My generation, the ever talked about Millennials, were let down in a sense because we really were told our entire lives that we could do whatever we want in life. 

I firmly believed in that idea but as I got into college and found myself unsure of my own identity, direction, and overall purpose, my belief started to fade. 

While I still think that dreaming big is a real possibility and I do believe that people can pursue whatever dream is in their heart, reality can be a bit harsher for some in that many sort of fall into their career or fall into the place that they are in whether they “like” it or not. 

That doesn't quite feel like the original dreams we were told to try and live out now does it? 
When I was little I didn’t dream up the exact life that I’m currently living. 

This isn’t to say that I dislike my current life because my truth is that I love the life that I’ve found myself living. Sure I wish I could have avoided some of the pitfalls that I trapped myself in as I learned what living really is. 

But each fall and subsequent rise back up has taught me lessons about myself and about pursuing a better way to living life and achieving what I want in this life.
Back when I was just a teenager, I can’t say that I was as thoughtful about my life. I didn’t exactly consider the weight of my decisions as I was growing up. I didn’t fully appreciate how each decision would have a subtle impact on the trajectory of my life. 

I definitely was not aware enough to understand that my dreams or aspirations would be impacted positively or negatively by the small choices I made as I grew up. 

Looking back on my life so far and the career path that I’ve found myself in, my journey wasn’t a linear movement from point A to point Z. With each year that passes and each decision that I make, my life has developed into what it is today. 

Is that a bad or unusual thing? 

I don’t think it is.

If you're like me, you may feel as though you've been half asleep for your entire life and not until recently did you finally wake up. It was only after my daughter was born that I began to realize just how impactful my thoughts and decisions can be on my life. 

I know that I’ve experienced burnout before in my past. I’m betting that we all have at some point. For me, the strongest period of burnout had to be towards the end of my college experience. 
When I consider that version of myself that was feeling burnout, I remember being anxious, tired, and ready to quit. My goals had fallen from potentially accomplishable and became the daunting lofty pursuits that I had feared they would become. Graduating college? Me? Yeah right. 

Now that I’m older I don’t feel much connection with who that person was. It was me, for sure, but why did I allow myself to become so distraught? 

College is supposed to be the fun time, the place in your life to be worry free and figure yourself out. Perhaps the problem was that I had too much fun? Maybe I spent too much time living "in the moment" without taking care of myself mentally or physically until my body got fed up and my mind grew weary. 

I got along fine for a while in school but in pursuit of the dream that was in my heart at that point (to get a college degree) burnout started to creep in. 

My grades suffered, my relationships suffered, and I sort of shut down. Am I the only one who has experienced this feeling of being so overwhelmed, so much burnout, that you lose sight of your dreams and end up calling it quits? 
What happened between the dreams of my youth and the realities of adulthood? What was driving my fear of failure? What happened between 18 year old me that was full of hope, strong aspiration, and immense passion fast forwarded to 21 year old me that could barely show up to his classes, driven by anxiety and too afraid to try for fear of failing? 

I’m still kind of figuring it all out if I’m being truthful. I’m older now, soon to be 28 years old and I think back to my head space during those times and really question why I was so disconnected. 

Burnout doesn’t quite do justice to the feeling of “lesser than” that overtook my thoughts. 
In trying to analyze those pieces of my life, I am looking to prevent myself from falling back into those mental locations of self-destructive tendencies and build a shield around my own mental state. 

I am striving now with a relentless energy to be a better human, to maintain positivity in rough circumstances, and to not allow myself to get to a point of being so thin in life that I allow burnout to creep back in. 

Look back at my recent post recounting my first experience with Therapy and you will see that it takes more than self awareness. Most of us need someone to help guide us in the right direction especially in these pivotal moments where burnout starts to re-materialize in your life's pursuit. 

Having that extra help is what disallows a realistic goal from fading into the daunting lofty pursuit that has haunted my past. 
These days I’m dreaming big again because I want to be the model for my child. I can’t tell her to dream big if I’m not taking the steps in my own daily walk to show her that I can live out what I’m preaching to her. 

How many of us had a dream in our youth that we’ve long since forgotten or given up on? 

Maybe it’s time that we either dust off that old dream or start planting the seeds in our own mind for a new one to take its place. 

I know that depending where you are at in your walk to being the best you, considering a new dream may feel too distant of an option. 

Perhaps a better starting point would be to contemplate on your dreams of old and what has changed since you first had them. I'm finding more and more that when I spend the time to reflect, to write, to consider my past and the decisions that I've made for good and for bad, that recounting those times is extremely beneficial to my path forward. 

Our past can be a point of contention that disallows us to move forward or it can be leveraged as motivation for us to be better and more equipped to tackle our future with the inspiration and drive needed to succeed. 
I can’t speak for my readers but when I was young, my dreams were lofty! I’d be the next Michael Jordan, or an Astronaut, or even a world class Cellist. So many different cool ideas and possibilities existed in my mind. 

I can remember spending an incalculable amount of late evenings shooting the basketball in my backyard, certain that I’d one day be on the level of a MJ. I bet that a lot of you had similarly lofty dreams that you may now look back on and consider them unrealistic.

It reminds me of that phrase (forgive me as I may be butchering this) but it goes something along the lines of “shoot for the moon and you will land among the stars.” 

In other words, we often will fail to reach our initial dreams or goals but in pursuit of those aspirations we may end up in a much better place than when we originally took off towards those goals. 
I’ve grown to really enjoy and develop a passion for my job and my line of work but I’m not certain I’d say that “I love it.” Heck, when I got into my university, I would have never pin pointed my current job as the destination from that starting point. 

Is it possible that means there is something wrong with me? Why aren’t I pursuing my biggest dreams and aspirations as a human to be a well-known, highly regarded musician or to fly to the moon? 

For starters, those dreams may have been a teensy bit out of the realm of possibility. 

I also think I’ve realized over time that more often than not, as we grow older, our wild, fantastical dreams sort of subside and in their wake, materializes more realistic, achievable goals. Is that a terrible admission that means I am a failure? 

I would argue a very strong and resounding, NO! 
It's a beautiful occurrence that we all evolve over time and often grow into different people than we thought we were back in our younger years. Some people grab a singular dream and relentlessly chase it their entire life. 

But most of us adapt as we grow up and our dreams, ideas of success, aspirations all start to shift over time to better fit the situation that we find ourselves in. Of course I’d still love to be a player in the NBA but the math for that goal just didn’t add up. 

Does that mean I should stop dreaming altogether and live an unambitious life? Absolutely not! 

Dream big and dream often. But also recognize that it’s not a bad thing to sometimes set our sights on realistic goals within our grasp. 
In consideration of the idea of burnout creeping up on us in pursuit of our dreams or goals in life, I think setting realistic goals becomes even more important. 

If you are an artist and your dream is to sell 2 million copies of an album but thus far, you’ve only sold 100, then burnout might hit you hard and fast. Why? 

Because without the infrastructure in place to support that outcome, you are going to be feeling defeated and down about the fact that you have so far to go. 

I think you have to reset your expectations and start out with small, achievable goals first so that you can build up your confidence. Checkpoint one should have been that 100 albums sale. Then 1000. Then 5000 and so on and so on. 

When I first started created Likely Fiction, I was happy to get 10 page views in a single day. If I had gotten 150 views in a month then that was saying something. 

Over time, my dreams for this site have shifted and grown more aspirational as I rack up small victories on my path to my big ideas for where this may go. As we get older we have to consider that our dreams will change and we need to be comfortable with that being normal. 

Sure I wanted to be Michael Jordan as a kid, but now I’m older and my priorities have shifted dramatically (in a superbly positive way).
For example, now I dream more about being the best Dad that I can and creating special moments and memories with my daughter so that she can grow up and look back on her childhood with the same fondness that I do. 

An achievable dream or goal that I've developed recently is to one day be able to afford Dallas Mavericks season tickets so that she and I can attend games together and develop a tradition of watching the team. 

While I’m not in a place where I can afford that now, I have already started the tradition of her watching with me during season on our TV at home. She has a cute Luka Doncic jersey that is way too big for her and she loves wearing it because it matches Daddy’s. 

So in one respect, I’m already on a path to living out that goal of mine.

In pursuit of those sort of goals, I’m finding that I don’t have time to allow burnout to creep into my life anymore. I can’t afford it!! 

Life is too precious and to allow some idea of being tired, or distraught, or negative to dictate my trajectory and how I’m going to live my life, feels plain wrong. I actively choose on a daily basis, to reject this notion of burnout and when I feel ready to come up with an excuse or reason why I can’t, I consider what I’m trying to accomplish and why I’m trying to do it. 

Remind yourself of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to be when you start feeling that burnout approaching your field of vision. Whether you believe me or not, we could all reject it out of our lives and live uninhibited by it. 

We could collectively dispose of our negativity and fear, to be replaced with positivity, joy, and pure energy to pursue the goals in our heart.

 It isn’t easy. It really is not. 

But that doesn’t mean you have to give up before stepping up to the starting line. It only takes one day of working hard at a goal and feeling the power in those growing pains, before you are hungry for a day 2. 

So what are you waiting for? What’s holding you back? 

Really consider that for a moment because if you identify that anchor (you could call it burnout, negativity, fear, stress, etc.) and you cut it out of your life, that in and of itself will start to bring you closer to being the best you. 

That will open the door for you to start dreaming again.  
I’d like for you to consider your dreams of old. Which ones did you have as a young person that you have now forgotten, that have evolved, or that you have now replaced with new ideas and aspirations of what the future may hold? 

Make some time to really stew on that question. I know that so many of us get caught up in our day to day grind and routine that actually setting aside a moment to imagine what we desire to accomplish in life feels like it should be a task for the distant future. 

However, I encourage you to take the time to look around at your past, your present, and try to project forward into the future and imagine what exactly you would like to do. 

Having a vision for where you are going, what you are trying to accomplish, and establish a strong foundation for WHY you are doing it all, is so vital. 

Remember that movie Field of Dreams? That classic line, "if you build it, they will come?" 

In the same vein of intention, if you build out your vision for your life in your mind, then I firmly believe that the success and life that you seek out will materialize and will become your reality. 

Harking back to that idea of burnout, whether in pursuit of being a better you, in your job, or in chasing your dreams, remember that you have the power over your own life. Your perception creates your reality.

Burnout is just another word that only has meaning if you allow it to in your personal situation. So make the active choice to redirect those negative thoughts and instead of wasting energy on them, find a way to productively use your mind. 

Put thought into where you want to be! Dream a little and then start pouring in the time to ignite that dream so that instead of burning out you become so passionate in your pursuit of your goals that you are literally on fire. 

That fire will be a beacon to others who see that you are someone that is taking big strides in life and in that you can serve as a light to encourage others around you. I absolutely believe this to be true. Chase those dreams and leave burnout behind for good. 

If you enjoyed this post and are looking for more foundational ideas to start living your best life, check out my article on 5 New Healthy Hobbies to pursue in becoming your best you. I believe that not only is important to work hard in your pursuits in life but to also manage your mental and physical health throughout that process and I think these healthy hobbies will be just the thing you need to continue down a positive path! 

If you are loving my site, Likely Fiction then please do me a favor and subscribe so that you receive updates each time a new post is published, share with your friends and family, and comment below so we can continue the conversation online. 

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