If you’ve chosen to embark on a personal development journey, there’s a good chance you need to spend more time reflecting. In this age of instant gratification, many people don’t.
People who value growth are more likely to set big goals, start businesses, pick up speaking engagements, engage in creative work and generally put themselves in situations that are high stress. Personal development may be exciting, but it isn’t easy.
In my experience, holding up a mirror and confronting the reality of who you are can actually be a painful process. You begin thinking about what you have and haven’t accomplished to this point, which can be depressing if reality doesn’t match up with expectation.
And, as you delve into material that puts a spotlight on your strengths and weaknesses, you may proclaim with frustration, “I wish I knew this stuff sooner!”
It’s better to have started when you did than to have not started at all.
But one of the creeping dangers of beginning this process is burnout.
The Dangers of Burnout
It’s not uncommon for personal development junkies to suffer from burnout, sometimes within years, sometimes within months of beginning their growth journey.
Prior to beginning, your thought process was average. You didn’t think you were capable of accomplishing big things. You dreamed about winning the lottery one day. You spent anywhere from three to five hours per night watching TV, Netflix or YouTube.
Those behaviors and thought processes begin to change when it dawns on you that other people are doing amazing things with their lives. Now you know that normal people just like you have built multimillion dollar businesses. Now you’re starting to think you’d rather earn your first one million dollars than win it. And, you realize there are better ways to spend your time than watching the hockey game on the tube.
That difference in thinking may appear small, but it’s significant. And, it’s at this point that some people become fanatical about their daily growth habits.
It’s good to set goals and follow through with action. But sudden changes can be dangerous and harmful to your health and wellbeing. At first, it might seem like getting up earlier, exercising more, and spending long hours at work is a healthy and reasonable change.
But if you aren’t careful, this can easily lead to poor habits — eating fast food and drinking caffeine for a quick fix, remaining sedentary for long hours, sleep deprivation, coping with stress by drinking or doing drugs and more.
You might be able to sustain that pace short-term but you’re going to pay a high price for your actions if you keep it up long-term. Forget productivity — if you burn out, you may not be able to function. More than likely, you’ll be too busy tending to your health.
Personally, I’ve had run ins with anxiety, migraines and chronic fatigue as result of my overzealous work habits. And trust me when I say these conditions can be debilitating at times.
Power Ahead, Slow Down or Give Up?
It’s at this point, at the point of burnout, that there’s an important decision to be made. Power ahead, slow down or give up?
Some people choose to power ahead, which can further exacerbate existing health conditions or bring some new ones to the forefront.
Reflecting on your mistakes would have prevented you from making the same costly mistakes. But because you didn’t, and nothing was learned. No adjustments were made. And, nothing changes because nothing changes.
But if you stopped to reflect on your actions and made adjustments based on what you learned, you would be well-positioned to optimize your routine. You would begin to figure out what and what doesn’t work for you instead of trying to emulate your hero’s routine (without understanding how they pull it off in the first place).
Finally, there are those who give up. This is the most unfortunate decision you can make. There is no failure unless you give up on yourself. But if you give up on yourself, it’s over. The journey ends. It’s tempting to end it at times because it’s hard. But you will thank yourself later if you stick with it.
Again, stopping to reflect could have prevented this situation. You may have come to the important realization that this journey is hard — and it is– but maybe you could take things at a more manageable pace.
To me, it’s better to be consistent than haphazard. Anybody can read a book for 15 minutes per day, especially if they sacrificed 15 minutes of their TV watching time. That 15 minutes per day could eventually turn you into an expert in your field.
And, for many, that’s a good way to start. You can’t go from zero to hero overnight anyway. But you can transform into a hero a few years down the line if you remain consistent.
What Reflection Offers
So far, I’ve shared about the dangers of burnout and how reflection could either help you prevent it or move ahead after suffering from it.
This serves as a good illustration for why reflection is important, but it’s not the only circumstance in which it applies. Literally every success or failure you encounter can be reflected upon and there’s a great deal to be learned from each.
Ambitious people tend to be bad at stopping. But they don’t even recognize when they hold back their own growth by not taking breaks and thinking about their wins and losses.
In November 2017, I went to Japan on a two-week vacation. Prior to leaving, I was suffering from severe burnout, so I was intentional about not bringing my work with me. I didn’t even bring a laptop.
I ended up having a lot of fun in Japan. I got to reunite with many grade school friends. I ate a lot of amazing food. I got to spend some time alone, journaling, walking, exploring and sightseeing. I got a couple of massages and sat in the hot springs.
I came back rested, sharper and more confident. I didn’t just want that break. I needed that break. Taking those two weeks away allowed me to jettison any baggage I was carrying and start with a clean slate. It sounds magical, but that time truly allowed me to internalize the lessons I had learned to that point and move forward with a sharper focus.
I recently interviewed music mogul Jason Davis on my podcast. As a man with many businesses, he shared with me that he often works 14- to 16-hour days. I asked him how he was able to sustain that kind of pace. He told me that, these days, he is intentional about trying to take weekends off. Additionally, every six to eight months, he takes a vacation.
So, here’s proof that even people who work long hours actually take breaks and are even intentional about doing it.
If you’re a personal development junkie and you’re not regularly reflecting, then you’re not being effective with the resources and effort you’re investing into yourself. Sometimes, you need to let growth catch up with you, and it won’t unless you take time to stop.
If you’re not reflecting, you’re not growing at the rate you could be. It’s as simple as that. You’re missing important lessons and not allowing them to sink in.
It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the day to day. But stopping to reflect could help you come up with some valuable ideas to propel your life and career forward.
As I’ve shared before, it’s all about the quality of questions you’re asking. Asking better questions can lead to a better life.
If you don’t stop, there’s no time to ask questions. But as my business coach says, it’s important to question everything we’re doing because more than likely we’re making some assumptions about what we need to do to get to where we want to go. There may be a better way that we’re not even seeing right now.