This skill takes time and some practice - and the art is in balancing it with aspiration to drive forward and make progress.

Taking your own pulse is about knowing deeply what you’re wanting to get out of life, and being comfortable with the fact that it’s not going to be a straight line. Like hardly ever. Ever.

If you’ve ever experienced burnout, you know how key this is.

And if you’ve ever experienced burnout, you know how powerful of a derailing force it can be: you have worked yourself into a state of constant emergency emotions. Those emergency emotions require you to practice fight or flight actions and reactions to normally benign situations. You nearly unavoidably begin building mental models around that internal environment (this is how I am) and the external environment (this is how the world is).

So not only are you burning out - but you’re actually burning your dreams, inside and outside, because the world you once saw in your earlier states of exuberance and energy literally begin to vanish and be replaced by threatening mental and psycho somatic models. You mind and your body are always keeping the score. And as the scoring system gets messed up in the state of burnout, the score gets equally messed up and imprinted into your being.

To get out of burnout, and retain your vision, takes a ton of discerning self awareness. The key word here is discerning - you can be self aware, and be aware of all the pain and struggles and exhaustion, and you can be aware of what situations were seeming to cause them most… but that gives you messed up feedback. Because if you’re not discerning about the feelings and causes by not giving into the stories that validate any story other than: life was awesome, but I cooked myself and the last portion of life isn’t really true because I was in a messed up state - you’re missing the point of self awareness.

Self awareness, at it’s best, is meant to capture the whole truth of yourself - which means, yourself, in context and the world, in its context, and your contextual relationship with it all.

It also takes a lot of willingness to suffer - to sit with and allow the old resistances and energies to unwind and subside. If you don’t, you’ll lead a life that is based on an aversion to that state. Which in reality will miss the mark on being aligned with the things that mattered to you at the beginning.

Long story short - burnout is a topic of it’s own, and is something to be treated with a ton of respect, because it’s a powerful force that can be hard to handle cleanly and get out safely the other side.

Which is the reason taking your own pulse regularly is so key -

Are you tired? Notice when you feel tired. That, is, real. Listen to it. You may need to push a bit, but notice that you’ve got something building up. And commit to yourself to getting some extended rest and be confident that you’re doing the right thing by kicking back.

Are you lonely? Humans are social creatures and not getting your basic needs met through tough or intimacy or closeness or connection is going to lead to energy depletion and it will build up until you’re crying in line at starbucks and you barely know why. Elephants will apparently die without social contact for extended period of time.

Are you frustrated and feel like you’re spinning your wheels even with max effort? That’s a major sign that you’re getting cooked - if you’re doing something that you’re normally aligned with in life, and are in a good state, you will have energy. And excitement. And creativity. And enjoyment. If you’re missing these things, even though it feels like you’re trying really hard - that is a tell tale sign that you’re getting a bit burnt. Take time away or slow down your effort to produce things.

Are you filled with anxiety? There is clinical anxiety, which I’m not qualified to speak to, but there is also an anxiety that builds when you are chronically immersed in emergency emotions - your body starts adapting to your fight or flight tendencies, and gets ready for you. The longer you’re in emergency emotions, the better your body gets at beating you to the punch.

Gordon SwensonComment