In science and children’s museums across the world, there are coin donation spirals that cause coins to roll around a circle before dropping into the waiting pit below. After being launched from a ramp, forces pull the coin ever closer to the center and into their eventual drop through the hole. Our lives can feel like this. We’re going along fine, pulled by an unseen force towards the burnout black hole at the center of our world. We find that we’re spinning round and round, getting nowhere, and ultimately feeling exhausted before we drop.
Forces at Play
The forces that drive the coin drop are gravity, the momentum of the coin, and the centrifugal force that pulls the coin away from the center as it rolls faster and faster. In our lives, the tendency towards feelings of inefficacy can pull us down an ever steeper and more treacherous slope. The closer we get to burnout, the more ineffective we are, and the more ineffective we feel.
Inefficacy is at the heart of burnout. It’s our feeling that we can’t get anything done. As we spend more and more of our energy on trying to avoid the pull, the less effective we feel – and the closer to burnout we get.
With blackholes, it’s called an event horizon. It’s the point beyond which there’s no chance of escape. The amount of velocity required would exceed the speed of light, and – according to Einstein – nothing can do that. As a result, it’s the point at which any object would be inescapably caught. The good news is that burnout doesn’t have an event horizon – no matter how burned out someone might feel. Well before the event horizon of a blackhole, you’ll feel the pull. You’ll start getting sucked in. However, just feeling like you’re getting pulled in doesn’t mean you can’t escape.
For pre-event horizon objects, the escape path isn’t to fight the entire force of the black hole by aiming away and pushing as hard as possible. The escape path is to increase the velocity of your orbit around the blackhole. In burnout, the trick isn’t to fight it directly; instead, we should find ways to be effective in the presence of the pull.
The quickest boost anyone can get when they feel ineffective is to call in reinforcements and ask for support. When others help us, we can feel more effective, and it doesn’t take any more work on our part. While many may resist asking for help, getting help can make the seemingly impossible just a bit less difficult, and the rewards for being effective are all the sweeter.
Being supported doesn’t mean that we didn’t accomplish something in the same way an athlete wins the medal themselves even if they were coached for years. Getting support just means that we’re getting that little push we need to avoid getting stuck into the downward spiral.
Sometimes it’s not support we need. It’s simpler. Sometimes all we need to do is recognize our velocity and spend less time worried about burnout and instead focus on what we can do to move forward in our lives. This added focus can make us more effective. Eventually, this additional productivity and velocity can help us escape from burnout’s grip.
Don’t spend your life circling around burnout’s drain; start finding ways to ask for support and focus your energies on moving forward, so that you can escape the drain and move on with your life.