Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. — Howard Thurman

I’d like to start this article by asking you a question…

Are you burned out?

If you’re not quite sure how to answer, here’s a list of some common signs of burnout:

  • You feel like you’re trying to be everything to everyone, but you have nothing left for yourself.
  • You feel like you’re trying to give from an empty well— dry, depleted, exhausted.
  • You ignore many of your physical needs, aren’t getting enough sleep, are eating crappy foods, or are numbing out with alcohol, tv, or anything else that takes the edge off (including staying busy).
  • You have a hard time remembering the last time you felt excited about your work.
  • You dissociate or check out at work or home; you’re not fully there.
  • Loved ones complain that you’ve forgotten about them, or you feel guilty that you’re neglecting people you love.
  • You’ve started resenting other people or projects that you care about.
  • You feel chronically anxious. There’s always tension at the bottom of your chest and always another thing to do.
  • Or, maybe you feel depressed, as if there’s a disconnect between your mind and the rest of you.

There are lots of different definitions for burnout, but at the core of them all is exhaustion. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual exhaustion caused by excessive work and stress. New clients often come to me because they’re burned out and want to find work with more balance and ease while still making some sort of difference in the world.

The problem is, being burned out can make it very, very difficult to find a new job.

There are several reasons why burnout can make a career change so hard. When you’re burned out, it is harder to access your inner guidance, feel excited about anything at all, identify what you really want and need, make complex decisions, or have the energy or stamina you need to devote to a career search.

Most people who are burned out don’t fully realize the enormous impacts that burnout is having on them. All they know is that they feel stuck and aren’t moving forward. As a result of their inaction, they may feel even more burned out. It’s like they’re trapped in a feedback loop where burnout leads to inaction and inaction leads back to more burnout. To step outside of this feedback loop and start getting clear about where you’re headed, you need to refill your energetic well.

The Two Phases of Career Change

It can help to think about a career change in two phases. The second phase is about imagining the types of careers you’d love, conducting small experiments to see what sticks, and having conversations that eventually lead to work you love. However, for this second phase to be productive, you first need an inner foundation to build upon. If you start the second phase from a place of burnout, you’re much less likely to attract potential employers or clients. And, you’ll have a much harder time figuring out what you really want and investing the time it takes to shift careers.

The first phase of a career change is about building this inner foundation for success. Phase one can go really fast when people are energized in their bodies, trust their intuition, are focused and organized, and have no problem with the idea of failure. It can take a bit more time when these pieces aren’t quite in place or you feel burned out. But if you’re diligent about taking small steps to care for your body on a regular basis, this first phase can go pretty quickly, too.

Baby steps make a big difference.

Now, you might be reading this and thinking— “But I’m between a rock and a hard place! I’m burned out because I don’t have time to take care of myself. If I did have the time, I would. But I don’t.”

I hear you. I’ve been in your shoes. I know how exhausting it can be to feel like the demands upon you are incessant and you can barely get your head above water to breathe. Please know that I am not trying to diminish how difficult things are for you right now. And, I invite you to consider the notion that even when things are this bad, you can still choose to take a teeny, tiny baby step.

I’ll show you how this works.

Do me a favor? Place the edges of each of your hands next to your eyes, with your hands parallel to each other, like blinders on a horse. Notice what you see between your hands. Then, pivot your head just a little bit to the right. Notice what you see now. It’s different, isn’t it? Just a slight shift can dramatically alter your perspective.

You don’t need to become a marathon runner or an organic chef or a daily meditator tomorrow. If you want to, you can, of course. But if that’s not possible, it’s okay. We walk a mile step by step. If a big change feels overwhelming, you can start with baby steps.

Your Minimum Requirements for Self-Care

You might not need to go on retreat once a month or eat gourmet food at every meal, but we each have what self-care pioneer, Jennifer Louden, calls “minimum requirements for self-care.” Your minimum requirements for self-care are the basic steps you need to take to feel good in your body, heart, mind, and spirit.

Everyone has different self-care requirements, and what you need will evolve as you grow. For example, I’d say that getting enough sleep is a minimum requirement for just about everyone, but how much sleep you need may be different from how much sleep I need or how much sleep you needed ten years ago. What’s important is that you understand your basic needs and take small steps consistently so you can keep showing up for yourself and creating work you love.

So, what are your minimum requirements for self-care?

To discover your personal self-care requirements, you need to become a detective. Over the course of the next week or two, I encourage you to take time every day to ask yourself the following three questions:

  • How do I feel?
  • What do I need?
  • And, what small step can I take to meet my needs this week?

Then, take the next baby step forward!

Let’s try this now.

Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and then write down your responses to the following questions:

  • How do I feel, right now?
  • What do I need, right now?
  • And, what’s one small step I can take to meet my needs?

If you start to feel overwhelmed by all of the different steps you could take, write them down. Just getting them out of your head is a small step in the right direction!

Once your thoughts are out of your mind, go back to the question—What’s one small step I can take that is actually doable today or tomorrow?

If every step that comes to mind seems super big, choose one that feels somewhat doable and break it down. Many small steps often take only five or ten minutes. If your step takes more than two hours, break it down even more until you arrive at something doable.

Then, go do it! And, know that taking care of your body is the first step towards creating a career you love.

What about you?

What baby step will you take this week to care for yourself?


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