Rethinking Commitments in a Burnt Out World

One of the ironies in our attempts to deal with burnout is that we often use the very strategies that are at the root of our burnout in the first place. This is because we have been made to believe that burnout is a personal problem we must ‘manage.’ We, therefore, consume wellness information, hack our lives to keep up, and strive to be more efficient.

However, no amount of effort on our part will ever be enough to thrive in our personal lives if we don’t commit to systemically addressing our collective lives. What if we shifted our focus to recognize that the worlds in which we operate are themselves burning out?

Think about the last time you found yourself overcommitted. You probably felt stretched thin, overwhelmed, maybe even burnt out. What if instead of heroically trying to rise to the occasion, you first questioned your commitments? What if the key to doing so was learning to pause before you make them in the first place?

Here at The Moment Institute, we draw on Dr Drake’s iBEAM model as a powerful resource for change. We’d like to use it here to offer you five ways to address burnout in and around your life and work. We hope it enables you to manage expectations, approach commitments, and make choices in ways that are more sustainable for you and the worlds in which you live. 

A Note From Dr. David Drake: 

As many of you know, I have been on quite the health journey over the past twelve months. I’d like to share with you some of what I have learned along the way, especially as it relates to burnout.

A series of illnesses were bookended by a fusion of my left big toe and a replacement of my right shoulder. While getting acupuncture for the latter, my practitioner noted that some of the key needle points to support the healing of my right shoulder were along the scar line on my left big toe. It got me wondering how the two might be connected…

I saw how the powerful journey work I did late last year opened up a lot on my left side. That work was central in strengthening my left side (which was under-committed) to enable my right side (which was over-committed) to heal. The two surgeries were indeed connected to help me see where my life was out of balance. 

Many of my usual strengths, such as a high cognitive capacity and a high degree of grit, were challenged by a year of brain fog and fatigue. As I have recovered, I have taken some valuable insights into the new year:

  • The need to let my strengths rest more often.
  • The need to access more of my whole self.
  • The need to pause, relax and open before I commit.
  • The need to choose environments that sustain me.

Practically what this has meant: 

  • I have done significant inner and outer cleansing to free myself to live with more ease.
  • I composted some half-hearted commitments to myself and others to work at my core.
  • I am making a major transition in my business to free me to be at my best more often.
  • I am exploring a big move in line with a deeper commitment to relationships and place.

Using iBEAM to recalibrate your commitments

The process starts with identifying the true roots of your commitments. Making the right commitments is about aligning your choices with who you truly are rather than succumbing to the pressures of what you believe you should be doing. When facing a new commitment, pause, relax, and open to become more fully aware — of your whole self, the whole picture, and the whole of time (not just the urgent moment). 

Here are five questions to support that process:

  1. Identity: Is this commitment in service of my highest self or the self I think I am supposed to be?
  2. Behavior: When I imagine myself having fulfilled this commitment, how do I feel in my body?
  3. Environment: What (and whose) need and role am I seeking to fill with this commitment?
  4. Aspiration: Does this commitment meaningfully contribute to my greater purpose (rest counts)?
  5. Mindset: Is this commitment one I am ready/resourced for to be able to do with relative ease?

Making commitments without presence and self-awareness often leads us down two challenging paths: burnout and battles. Burnout surfaces when we push ourselves beyond our limits, embracing tasks that don't resonate with our core values or that we’re not ready to take on. On the other hand, conflicts arise when we agree to things that contradict our values and true desires. Recognizing these signals is the first step toward healthier commitments. 

The Art of Presence in Commitment

Rethinking commitments means focusing on the present moment rather than on future outcomes. This approach encourages decisions deeply rooted in now, ensuring our commitments align with our current circumstances and present selves.

This practice of mindfulness helps avoid decisions made under pressure and leads to choices that resonate with where you are right now.

It Starts with Internal Commitments 

Internal commitments, or the promises you make to yourself, are the bedrock of avoiding burnout and staying true to your values. Ask yourself: What commitments can I make to myself that will counteract the pressure to overcommit? 

Maybe you commit to not checking your work email after 5 pm. Maybe you commit to attending every one of your daughter’s soccer games. The best way to know what internal commitments would serve you now is by reconnecting with your values. Do you value your physical health and need to commit to making time for the gym? Or maybe you value strengthening your team’s morale and need to commit to weekly one-on-one check-ins.

Identify what matters most to you now and align your external commitments with these internal values. You may notice that when you do, you experience far fewer internal battles and don’t struggle as much with burnout.

Reassess Your Commitments 

From understanding the effects of unconscious commitments to embracing the power of presence and self-awareness, this process is about making mindful choices that reflect your true values and current reality. We invite you to take a moment to reflect on your recent commitments using what you have just read. What might you want to shift going forward? In a world where many of us are in burnout to varying degrees, how can we make new choices, form new narratives, and build new bridges to create a world that is in greater balance and less burnout?

Join Us for Deeper Insights

If this exploration of commitment resonated with you, consider joining our free monthly community event: the Beyond Coaching Experience (BCE). BCE sessions are your opportunity to immerse yourself in guided practices, engage in reflective dialogue with peers, and discover simple yet powerful steps to evolve how you live and work. We would love to have you join us!

Register for free here.