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Stop doing this one thing to avoid burnout

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Author relaxing from writing

The thing number 1 that leads to burning out? It’s simple, and, to explain it, I need to revisit the meaning of 2 words - sacrifice and compromise.

Sacrifice: I give something valuable to take something more valuable.

Compromise: I give something valuable to get someone’s approval or reduce my fear.

Practical examples:

  • I prefer to read a book at home, yet I join my partner to watch a basketball game in the stadium because I want to share an experience with her and enrich our relationship. Sacrifice.

  • I prefer to write a book, yet I agree to send cold emails because I am afraid that otherwise I will be fired (to get the approval of the person making the firing decisions). Compromise.

The thing number 1 that leads to burnout? Compromises. Every time we make a compromise at work, we take 1 step closer to burning out.

More examples of compromises:

  • Taking a project which I don’t like but expect to get management’s approval;

  • Hiring more people too early to get the investor’s and public’s approval for growth;

  • Giving an unreasonable discount to a client out of fear of losing the sale;

  • Taking part in many meetings because it feels good to be important and necessary (approval), although I’d prefer to work on my projects instead.

By practising compromises, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and everyone else involved. Others eat the sour fruits of our unhappiness. It's a lose-lose game.


  1. Review your activities and decisions and look for the signs of compromises;

  2. Opt out from compromise situations by stopping those activities or

  3. Learning how they can be considered sacrifices. To find this angle, we need to identify what is this more important thing we are getting - except approval. A word of caution regarding money as something more important. Sacrifices usually don’t work this way because the underlying assumption there comes from the fear that other, more heart-full activities would not bring you enough money. One cannot build sacrifice on fear.

Both approaches are possible. Therefore, not always leaving the tasks and responsibilities is the solution. Instead, a change in perspective is necessary to see the sacrifice instead of the compromise. It's utterly different energy on intrinsic power, then.

To recap:

  1. Identify compromises.

  2. Replace them with heart-full activities or sacrifices or both.

  3. Move from burnout to well-being. (Too late? Check out the other resources on burnout avoidance and recovery).

Listen to your heart. Let this poem guide you:

The Listeners

by Walter de la Mare

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,

Knocking on the moonlit door;

And his horse in the silence champed the grasses

Of the forest’s ferny floor:

And a bird flew up out of the turret,

Above the Traveller’s head:

And he smote upon the door again a second time;

‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.

But no one descended to the Traveller;

No head from the leaf-fringed sill

Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,

Where he stood perplexed and still.

But only a host of phantom listeners

That dwelt in the lone house then

Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight

To that voice from the world of men:

Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,

That goes down to the empty hall,

Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken

By the lonely Traveller’s call.

And he felt in his heart their strangeness,

Their stillness answering his cry,

While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,

’Neath the starred and leafy sky;

For he suddenly smote on the door, even

Louder, and lifted his head:—

‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,

That I kept my word,’ he said.

Never the least stir made the listeners,

Though every word he spake

Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house

From the one man left awake:

Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,

And the sound of iron on stone,

And how the silence surged softly backward,

When the plunging hoofs were gone.


Farhad Niyoz is the CEO of .Cocoon.




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