Early during our first coaching session, a new client, “Steve” (name changed), asked me: “What’s wrong with me? I have no energy. I wake up tired and feel lousy most of the day. It’s like something isn’t right physically.”
Based on the schedule he kept, I simply told him, “Get some rest. You’re tired.”
“No. It’s got to be something more than that. I’m going to see my doctor,” he replied.
After going to his general practitioner, Steve was referred to two specialists and had a battery of tests done. The next week when I saw him, Steve told me the lab results all came back normal and the docs couldn't find anything medically wrong. He said he felt like a wimp because there was nothing medically wrong yet he still didn’t feel any better. I asked him if he took my advice and got any rest. His answer was an emphatic no. Therein lies the problem.
With many entrepreneurs, like Steve and myself, our greatest weakness is the little voice in our heads that tells us we aren’t doing enough. That little voice that tells us we need to keep our foot on the gas for fear of not knowing when and where the next set of clients will come from or how we are going to sustain the success we’re having. Success, coincidentally, that we aren’t even slowing down enough to enjoy.
There’s an old expression: “That which gets wound, must also be unwound.” As entrepreneurs we are often so driven and focused that we get wound up and forget to then unwind.
One of my other clients, "Jason," is a professional fighter. He trains intensely and intentionally. He also schedules his recovery every bit as intentionally and is careful not to schedule too many fights too close together. That’s advice we could all benefit from heeding.
To make a long story short, I could tell Steve was experiencing burnout. I explained to him that his first "assignment” was to go on vacation, and if he didn’t, I was firing him as a client. He relented and scheduled a trip to the mountains to rest and relax. When he returned he reported that all his symptoms had magically subsided.
We all reach a certain point where we are simply tired. It can be physical fatigue or emotional fatigue. The daily grind wears us down. When you are driven, its a reality that at some point you’re going to experience fatigue. In reasonable doses, fatigue is actually good thing. It helps us expand our capacity, if and only if we also dedicate time to rest and recovery.
Your fatigue doesn’t have to be attributed to something specific. It can be general wear and tear accumulated over time. When you have big goals and you burn the midnight oil you need to be careful not to run out of fuel. We need to silence that little voice in our heads and stop telling ourselves that we need to suck it up and press on.
You will get tired, we all do. It’s called being human. Don’t question your strength. Recognize that physical and emotional stress can both fatigue you.
Steve's question should have been "what should I do when I get too wound up?" We are taught a lot of things in school (management, statistics, communication) but what we aren’t taught is how or how much to relax. Unless you’ve been an athlete you may not realize that with fatigue must also come recovery time.
As the pressures of the fourth quarter of 2015 wind up, give yourself permission to unwind. Be intentional about it. Maybe you need to take a day or week off, or just stop trying to be perfect and slow your schedule down a little by canceling a couple of appointments. Create healthy boundaries and say no or delegate things outside of your strengths that will just weigh you down and then wear you down.
Fatigue and the symptoms that accompany it are like your body’s check engine light coming on. It’s reminding you to slow down and perform some routine maintenance.
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