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From Personal Burnout to Planetary Burnout: The Disease of More

Date

We live in a society on overdrive.

Better. Faster. More.

A “quick” visit to the internet to purchase, I don’t know, say, a kitchen caddy?… turns into an hours long comparison shop of 50 different products, often resulting in the purchase of exactly ZERO of them (since I rarely have the bandwidth to hang around long enough to make the actual decision).

Exhausting.

And that’s what we do in our free time.

In addition to having endless crap to decide on, purchase, and clutter up our existence, our culture also tells us to work endless hours, be available on our devices 24/7, sell more products, hustle harder than our competitor, and do “all-the-things” to grow our businesses.

This constant drive to do more, have more and be more is driven by fear.

  • A fear of not getting to the top of the inequitable pyramid of our society.
  • A fear that we won’t get our own in a world of diminishing resources.
  • A fear that we won’t be seen as successful, smart, or beautiful.
  • A fear of stopping or silence or not knowing who we are without a day packed full of activity.

So we work more and we buy more so we can feel better about ourselves and our prospects for survival.

And yet this energy, this drive for more, is not sustainable in any way.

We are human beings after all, not robots.

We are living things and like all living things, we innately have active cycles and resting cycles. Ebbs and flows. Days and nights. Summers and winters. Generally, in fairly equal amounts.

But we’ve forgotten this, and instead spend way too much time working and way too little time connecting… to our family and friends, to ourselves, to the earth. We move too fast to enjoy the beauty of this world.

And we continue to scurry around the obsessive productivity hamster wheel that is western society.

That is, until… we burn out (now an official medical diagnosis). Exhausted, sick, anxious or depressed, and suddenly unable to get a darn thing done.

And that’s bad enough.

But not only are we burning out, the very energy that leads to personal burnout is also burning out the planet.

As we work our butts off, keeping longer hours and hooked into our many devices, we literally keep the lights on longer, burn more fossil fuels, buy more electronics that become broken or obsolete and fill up our landfills and contaminate our water, and make more money so we can buy more stuff.

The faster we go, the more we produce and consume, the more we destroy the planet and the most vulnerable people on it.

But what if we just said NO to more?

What if we slowed down, ejected ourselves from the seemingly endless on-cycle, and tuned into our natural rhythms, the pulse of this planet we inhabit, and the natural waxing and waning of all life?

What if we trusted that by slowing down, we could actually become more naturally productive? A productivity generated by a cycle of deep rest, an ebb, like an incoming wave, that actually fuels our flow in a gentle and powerful way.

What if we had faith that in taking time to nourish and replenish ourselves, we might actually get a chance to feel what’s TRULY important to us, and then have ample energy and focus to create the beauty and impact this world so desperately needs?

What if we realized that by creating more empty space in our lives, we could actually have more than we ever could have imagined?

I learned recently about the “degrowth” movement. It’s the idea growth cannot be limitless without harm, contrary to popular economic belief, and that if we all worked less, we’d consume less, thereby saving ourselves and the planet. Clearly something I can get behind. But I would be remiss not to mention a key piece of the theory: degrowth also acknowledges that this can’t be a solely personal endeavor.

If we’re to work less and have more leisure time, they say, our governments must support that with programs like universal health or even universal basic income, because if we earn less in a society that continues to barrel forward, we are unlikely to be able to acquire all the things we need to thrive. And this is even more true for people and communities already living at the margins.

Let it be known that I am in full support of degrowing our society, starting with the fossil fuel industry.

And, in the absence of government support for a 3-day work week, in my work with clients, I offer ways to take a step back from the insane busyness of our society so that we can get really intentional about how we spend our time and make our money.

We go to the woods to unplug, slow down and reconnect with ourselves. We ask the big questions… What’s truly important in my life right now? Which way am I being called to go? Where can I make the most impact? Questions that you can only hear the answers to if you really take the time and space to listen, away from the screens and activities of daily life.

Then we apply these answers to our businesses and our lives. We learn what to prioritize and take intentional action in alignment with the wisdom gathered. We simplify and become more efficient, learning how to earn the same or more money with less time and effort. We get strategic and practical in finding ways to decrease our workload and increase our overall fulfillment.

And we do this in community so that we can support one another.

It’s not easy to buck such a powerful system, a system that tells us our worth is measured by our productivity. And if our government is not supporting us to work less, lead more fulfilling lives and save the planet, then we have to band together to do it ourselves.

And in the process we begin to dismantle, tiny piece by tiny piece, the machine that tells us to constantly keep going and doing and buying and having. We work less and we consume less. We enjoy more connection.

And while our personal actions alone will not stop planetary burnout, neither can we ignore our role in the ever-quickening pace of life on earth.

There is no simple answer here. But in slowing down and making time to breathe and connect, we are simply much more likely to discover a life-affirming and sustainable path, for ourselves and the planet.

If you live in the Bay Area and want to join a circle of women doing this good work together, summer enrollment for the Redwood Circle is open now, and there are just a few spots available.