Understanding The Reasons For Entrepreneurial Burnout Can Help You Tackle It Better

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Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Launching your own business or startup often means sacrificing sleep, life savings, and quality time with friends and family. No one said building a business would be easy, or that it would get better by time, but it’s about time we address the price so many founders brutally pay to keep their businesses afloat.


The term “burnout” was first coined in the early 1970s, but it wasn’t until recently that we became so accustomed to hearing the word being used to describe entrepreneurs everywhere. Burnout is estimated to cost the U.S. economy US$300 billion annually, and entrepreneurs certainly contribute their fair share. But rather than showing signs of weakness, business leaders have practiced what social psychiatrists call impression management, which is basically faking it till you make it. Toby Thomas, CEO of EnSite Solutions, explains the phenomenon with his favorite analogy: a man riding a lion. "People look at him, and think, ‘This guy's really got it together! He's brave!’" says Thomas. "And the man riding the lion is thinking: ‘How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?’"

If you run your own business, waking up in the middle of the night with panic attacks probably sounds too familiar. Having a stressful job, along with innate character traits, can cause emotional distress, anxiety, and push you over the edge; kind of like the downside to being all the way up. While stress can be your biggest motivator to do your absolute best, if not recuperated by rest, burnout will soon become an inevitable fate.

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What causing the burnout though? You’re bored. Your days are all starting to look alike, you lost your sense of purpose, and you’re stuck in a rut, not challenged by anything or anyone anymore. Often referred to as “boreout”, if not treated, being bored at work will not only compromise the quality of your output, but also the quality of the life you live outside of the office.

Another thing that could be contributing to your burnout is pushing yourself beyond your limits. Successful entrepreneurs who work 24/7 are celebrated more than those who go on weekly vacations and enjoy a little R&R. Work-life balance is often ignored, with everyone feeling the pressure to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk. The truth though is that knowing how to delegate, and trusting other people to help you with your most pressing business needs is essential if you plan on “switching off” every once in a while.

According to research from VU University Amsterdam, the University of Richmond, and North Carolina State University, entrepreneurs exhibit two types of passion: harmonious and obsessive. The research found that entrepreneurs with harmonious passion were more motivated than obsessive entrepreneurs, because their jobs brought them a sense of satisfaction and purpose. On the other hand, entrepreneurs with obsessive passion were in it for the status, money, or other rewards their jobs brought, which is mostly the number cause for burnout in the workplace. As such, to avoid burnout, you need to be honest with yourself and your capabilities. Don’t turn your passion into an obsession.

Related: Getting Off The Hamster Wheel: There's More To Life Than Just Being An Entrepreneur