A few truly amazing women who work and volunteer in the birth community recently asked me to facilitate a small group for them, something that would lend itself to helping them get done more of what they want to be doing. They want to be free of the energy-time-sanity black hole that seems almost inevitable in this kind of work. As we were launching this week, I asked for conversation starters. One woman asked if me to write something about avoiding burnout. Um, yeah, we could start there.
So I panicked a bit, mostly because this is a huge conversation. All of my work is about moving toward freedom, which is the opposite of burnout. Luckily, I’m not in the mood to dig into the seriousness of all of that. Instead, let’s pretend we are talking about cars.
Rule 1: Meet and master the vehicle you’re driving.
If you don’t know yourself — your gifts and challenges, your personality, your beliefs and what is driving you, and the way your history impacts you emotionally — you aren’t able to use you (the tool) very effectively. You can’t win the race if you don’t know where to put the key or the fuel or how to put in your favorite music and rock the super-sweet stereo system. And once we learn these little lessons about how we work, it helps if we keep that information close and put it into practice regularly. This is about living as efficiently as possible, getting the best results out of your time “behind the wheel” of this body.
Rule 2: Maintain the equipment properly.
If you are not treating your body, mind, and spirit in a loving manner, you can’t possibly expect it to be reliable. If you don’t give your body what it needs to thrive, it simply cannot thrive. We all know about the easy ones — sleep, exercise, healthy food, etc. — but are you nurturing your creative spirit, connecting regularly with the Divine? You know you need to change the oil every 3,000 miles, but are you really maintaining yourself on the deeper levels?
Rule 3: Buy the best fuel for the machine.
If you wouldn’t put diesel in a gasoline engine, why would you put junk food in a body that needs living foods to thrive. What about food allergies and sensitivities? Are the foods you’re eating really serving you? Do they keep you energized and satisfied, or do they weigh you down and leave you hungry for more? Do you need any nutritional supplements? Are you drinking enough water?
Rule 4: Stay the course.
There’s no denying that we are all crafted very uniquely for different kinds of journeys on this planet. Some people have the high clearance and chunky tires that work best in off-road situations, while others are very clearly made for the highway life. Some have lots of space for fellow travelers, and others simply offer the solitude of the open road. Some like a nice, controlled trip, and others prefer it loud, rattled, and wind-blown. The truth is… it doesn’t matter how we like to journey. There is no right or wrong, just find and stick to the track that’s true for you. Taking your little scooter into the mountains to live the four-wheeling life is like pulling into the drive-through and ordering yourself a big ol’ juicy burnout burger.
Rule 5: Seek shelter when necessary.
When you encounter harsh conditions, park yourself in a garage. Life is not always easy, and when there are people, situations, or experiences that bring chaos into your world, protect yourself. Take a step back, and wait for a clear route to present itself. Racing around trying to outrun a tornado never works out, so why do it with your life. It’s your job to keep you safe from people who suck. Do your job.
Rule 6: Remember to check the map.
It’s easy to get distracted these days. In fact, some days it seems like our culture is set up this way just to see if we can be thrown off course. But we have something to guide us, a built in GPS to tell us which paths and pitstops are true for us, and that is our intuition. Deep down within us there is a voice that speaks the truth, something more accurate than any passenger or even navigation system. This journey is yours. The answers are within you. And just because you see something going on in the world that needs to be done does not mean you have to pull your car off the road and do it. We can care. We can celebrate that other people care about what’s true for them to be doing with their lives. We can even pause for a moment to explore whether or not there might be something in a certain situation for us to deal with… but we can’t waste precious time traveling someone else’s journey. Follow your heart. It will get you where you need to go.