Day-to-day life over the past month or so had left me kind of burnt out. I was inexplicably feeling exhausted. I was not at my best- which I truly hate. I’d realized weeks ago I would eventually need a day to disconnect. We all need that every once in a while. I figured out that I would not want to hear everybody’s recap of the election (regardless of the result), and Wednesday’s weather was forecasted to be unseasonably warm.
So, I took Wednesday off, got in my car and just started to drive. I had no plan, no idea as to where I would be headed when I left. I purposely refrained from making a plan. I didn’t look into options, or pre-meditate in any sort of way. I wanted to try something different than what we all typically do when we travel. I wanted to lean simply on my instinct, and just let it determine where I should go as I go. Everywhere I went, every decision I made regarding when and where to turn, I made on the fly, just based on what felt right.
I went west out of Denver, following highway 6 through Golden, than 93 north, and 72 west towards Nederland. I continuously resisted the urge to pull out my map book, or my phone, or turn to any other source of information to achieve a welcome break from one of the things that may be exhausting all of us in the mid-2010s. This is the process of gathering information. In this era, often gather way too much of it, agonizing over it, to the point where we delay actually making the decision, sometimes far too long!
Along the way, I experienced this strange hyper-emotional calm. I began to tear up. I was breathing heavy. But, it felt really good. It felt as if for the past couple of months, emotions were one by one filling up inside my head, bouncing around like molecules until they gradually started to reach a critical mass, where there was no longer room for them to move around. They had just become jammed . And, now, with whatever barrier that was keeping them inside removed, I was suddenly free to just let them out, and let them all out at once.
As I continued along this windy path, this strange hyper-emotional calm became accompanied by a feeling of optimism. I felt like I knew I was in the right place, doing the right things, and making progress toward where I wanted to be. I’d freed myself from all the data, all the second guessing that gradually erodes away at our confidence. I knew that, both that day, and in life, I was moving in the right direction even when I didn’t see the destination.
For a while, I had no idea as to why I was experiencing burnout. The term typically conjures up images of someone working long hours into the night, neglecting their friends, their families, and other areas of their lives. Burnout is people working 70+ hour weeks, which I most certainly had not been for the duration of 2016. So, why was I burned out? Why did I feel drained so often?
Having searched for answers regarding this, through reading, conversation, and observing people, I came to a series of important realizations about burnout, which run contrary to the image of long nights with pots of coffee.
It’s not the amount of work that burns us out.
Workload can contribute, but more important is how we feel while we are doing our work.
The primary source of burnout is feeling as if we are being phony, or fake.
Pretending to be someone else, for whatever reason we do it, is exhausting. It is not sustainable. The only way to be is our true selves. That is what our instincts tell us to do.
Negative energy in all forms leads to burnout.
One of the nastiest forms is fear, trying to prevent some sort of bad outcome such as loss of job or status. When we act out of fear, or anger, hate, etc., everything we do is significantly more draining.
One of the most exhausting things we do is try to prove ourselves.
I’ve seen plenty of instances where someone is working long hours, but is not burned out because they are doing what they love and they feel confident while doing it.
My instinct even took me down a random dirt road, something I otherwise never would have done if it were not my previously specified destination.
I ended up at a place called Rainbow Lakes, part of the Indian Peak Wilderness.
I hiked roughly 2.5 miles, getting to the treeline, which was surprisingly nearly snow free! This is definitely not encouraging for fans of winter sports.
As, well, as can often be the case in our lives as a whole, the change of season that winter sports fans are waiting for is simply not happening yet. This hike, on Wednesday Nov. 9th, felt shockingly similar to the way it would have felt in the middle of the summer.
Just over the ridge, I got myself to a place that was extremely inspiring. Unfortunately, I did not get a photo, as, well, my phone died. It was a sign that what I needed to do was disconnect, and, once again, connect to my own thoughts. Just for good measure, though, here’s a pic I found of the exact place where I sat.
I actually stared at that one little gap in the rock straight ahead.
Our subconscious thoughts do take into account recent information, even as our conscious minds look for more info and don’t know what to make of it. My subconscious mind, my instinct, though, processed all of this; the election, interactions with people, my own feelings, and summed it up neatly in one sentence, a sentence that simply popped into my head…
The age of deference is over
Make what you want of that.
I also came to another revelation regarding a matter that is more specific to my life. I had been thinking a lot about the concept of acceptance. It is why we are always trying to prove ourselves, and often exhausting ourselves. Afternoon exhaustion, dissatisfaction, lack of inspiration, all of these concepts are inter-related.
We want to be accepted, and can only be accepted as who we are.
But, for each person individually, myself included…
If we want to be accepted as who we genuinely are, we must do so for others as well.
We’re all looking for acceptance, but if we make it easier on each other, as well as ourselves, we might all have a bit more energy leftover for other things.
The previous night’s election, regardless of how any of us feel about it, is yet another example where sometimes more information, more data, is not better. The best models, based on every piece of data available, made predictions that were quite flawed. My instinct, many months back, came to a more accurate conclusion about what was to occur.
In an era where we have access to unlimited information, and are often bombarded by it, sometimes we need to realize that less is more. I, for sure, will, going forth, make a better effort to rely less on data and more on instinct. After all, it brought me to Rainbow Lakes, without even so much as looking at my atlas, or my Google Maps App.