The Overlooked Reason Why Entrepreneurs Get Burned Out

Yes, a work-life balance can help avoid burnout, but it's not the only thing.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer
Brand Storytelling Strategist
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Burnout isn't always caused by working too many hours or taking too few vacations. The truth is, there's another cause that many entrepreneurs are silently suffering from, and it's time to open up the conversation so we can take the necessary steps to avoid it.

As an entrepreneur who has built her career around being a coach, I have always had my own coaches because I believe one of the smartest ways to fast track your success is to find somebody that you resonate with, someone who's achieved what you want to achieve, and pay them to help you get where you want to go.

I've had several mentors and coaches in my career, one of whom inspired me to write about this subject. This mentor was brilliant and, from the outside looking in, had "made it." They had the money, the authority, the fame, the house, the cars — everything that modern society defines as success. 

But this person was struggling with burnout.

You may have heard of burnout being described as something that happens when you work too many hours or fail to find a balance in your personal and . The most common advice given to avoid burnout is to "make sure you don't work 80 hours a week your whole life and make sure you take care of yourself." 

It's not overworking; it's something else

I used to believe avoiding burnout was that straightforward until I had a conversation with my mentor. I had (lovingly) called them out on appearing exhausted — and what they said to me next opened my eyes to a new definition of burnout.

They said, "I honestly just feel super underappreciated. That's why I'm burnt out."

And it was at that moment I started seeing things differently. I had never heard of somebody attach feelings of burnout to feelings of underappreciation, but it all made sense. I took a step back and considered other entrepreneurs in my life who've told me they feel burnt out, and I realized that there's a very clear pattern they all share.

Related: Understanding Entrepreneurial Burnout (And How To Deal With It)

The pattern of over-delivering

You see, there's this idea in the modern marketplace that in order for your customers and clients to be happy, you must always over-deliver, that you must exceed your customers' expectations beyond their wildest dreams.

We're told that because the marketplace is so busy and because consumers have so many choices, we must go above and beyond to keep our clients happy and exceed expectations when they purchase our products and services.

While I absolutely believe in creating a fantastic experience for customers, I also believe that this pressure to over-deliver has caused a lot of entrepreneurs (like this coach of mine) to spend years over-exerting themselves and disregarding their own health and  in the name of over-delivering. This often leads to feeling under-appreciated as clients continuously expect more beyond what was promised.

And the truth is, if you constantly over-deliver on what was promised to your customers, you may initially do it from a place of desire, but at a certain point, your desire turns to obligation as you fear they will go to the next coach, the next consultant, the next service provider or the next company. 

And what those beliefs lead to is good-hearted entrepreneurs getting burnt out after years and years of over-delivering and overextending themselves for the sake of pleasing clients.

Related: Frustrated With a Colleague? Expectations May Be Why

Stop over-promising

If you are a natural overachiever, a , or if you have a natural tendency to over-give, there are three important things to keep in mind.

First, get clear on how you want to deliver your services and your products in a way that leaves YOU happy and leaves your cup full. Look at your specific lifestyle first (or the lifestyle you are working toward building), then look at your offers. Can you deliver on your products/services without feeling stressed? Do you have enough space in your calendar to feel peaceful when you look at it? How much of your personal time does your offer require from you to deliver? Answer these questions, then change things in your business as needed. Design your products and services in the way that YOU want to - not based on what you think will sell the best. This requires the mindset of knowing that there are a million different ways to fulfill on an offer and get your customers the result they're looking for. Bottom line: you have to choose a method of delivery that feels good to you, makes you happy and allows your cup to be full so that you can fill your clients' without feeling depleted.

Next, set clear boundaries and expectations at the beginning of all client relationships. Experts will often promise anything or say anything to a potential client just to make a sale, only to realize later on that they should have stuck to their standards and turned away the client. So make sure your client  process clearly communicates all expectations, standards, and boundaries. This allows you to have healthy client relationships from the beginning where both sides are happy. Keep in mind that you can do this by communicating in a stern, loving and caring manner from day one. 

Lastly, most importantly: Check in with yourself consistently as you evolve as an entrepreneur. Give yourself love, grace and freedom to adjust, tweak, and shift your offers, your , your services and your products as you see fit. Give yourself freedom and permission to retire offers that no longer serve you, align with your goals or excite you because the one thing that is always constant in life is change. And the beauty in life as an entrepreneur is that as you grow and change as a person, your business gets to grow and change with you.

Related: Over-Promising is the Worst Mistake an Entrepreneur Can Make

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