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Ep #182: The Truth about Burnout

Most of us associate time and energy with money. We believe that effort creates money, and we think that burnout is caused by working too many hours or working too hard.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Join me on this episode to learn about the distinction between overwhelm and burnout and why it’s so important to understand it. I explain what burnout really is and what causes it, as well as how you can avoid it in your daily life and work. Listen in to find out exactly when it is the right time for you to step back from the task at hand and take a needed break.

What You will discover

  • The common misconception about how our time and effort is related to money.
  • 3 REAL causes of burnout.
  • How to avoid burnout without changing the amount of time and effort you put in.
  • The importance of giving yourself a place to think.
  • How to tell when you truly need to do less and rest more.
  • How to prevent TRUE burnout and overworking.

Featured on the show

Get the Full Episode Transcript:

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Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Life Coach School Podcast, where it’s all about real clients, real problems, and real coaching. And now your host, Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo.

Hey my friends, today I'm going to talk to you about the truth about burnout. Now, I did a podcast just a few weeks ago about burnout and I wanted to do another one. In Scholars this month, we are working on how to get it done, and one of the questions that I get that is I think frustrating for my students is, when do I need to take a break, when do I need to give up, when am I burnt out, how can I tell the difference.

So episode 177 is giving up or burning out, and this one is called the truth about burnout. So I've done two on them because it keeps coming up so often. So many of my students are one or the other. They do nothing; they just constantly are giving up, procrastinating, not taking any action; and the other side of the spectrum is overworking and burning themselves out because they're working too hard.

The thing that a lot of people will tell me when I'm doing the money work - within Scholars, we have a course just on money, and when we're doing the money work, a lot of what comes up for people about making more money is they say, "I don't want to make more money because I don't want to work that hard. I don't want to burn myself out trying to create that amount of money" because we associate time and energy with money.

Our effort we think is what creates our money, and so we think if we want more money, then it has to be more effort, and then more effort, and then more money and then more effort and then more money.

What's interesting is the opposite of that is true. Result and value are what create money, not effort. And in fact, the more value you create, the less effort it takes to create that value. And the more you use your human prefrontal cortex to plan, the less energy and effort you will put into your job to create money.

And so if you are one of those people who is afraid of burning out, who is afraid of the hustle, who is afraid of working too hard because you think that's the price in order to create money, I want to tell you that you're absolutely wrong.

I have dealt and coached people at all levels of growth in terms of financial growth and business growth, and I'm going to tell you, the mindset doesn't change depending on how much money you have. In order to not get burned out, you have to understand what burnout is, and it has nothing to do with the amount of money that you're going to make.

People think burnout is caused by working too many hours or working too hard. This is incorrect. You can work many hours and never get burnt out. You can work incredibly hard and never get burnt out. What causes burnout is your attitude behind it.

So a couple months ago, I had planned all of these webinars, and it was coming from this place of really wanting to hustle and put a lot of effort in, that sort of thing. And what I found out was all of my thinking around it is what was causing me to burnout. So I changed how many webinars I was doing; I could have done all of those webinars with a different attitude, and I have before, but because my attitude was so negative about producing, that I really needed to change that up before I could start creating more work for myself.

And that's really, really important that you understand that the answer to burnout is to change your attitude. You can still work many hours if you would like, and you can still work really hard if you would like, if you're being fueled by the right energy.

Burnout is caused by three things: stressful thinking, poor planning, and scarcity thinking. When you are stressing and when you're thinking about scarcity and when you're not planning well, you will be reacting to your life and it will beat you up and you will burn out. Please hear me. Working a lot of hours and working really hard does not cause burnout. Burnout is caused by stressful thinking, poor planning, and scarcity thinking.

When you don't have enough space to think; when you don't have enough self-coaching; when you don't have enough purpose and when you don't have enough willingness to fail, you are going to be burnt out. You are going to feel exhausted.

Burnout comes when you're trying to outrun negative emotion when you're trying to work hard enough to prevent that negative emotion. It comes from trying to trade this moment for a future better moment. That never ever works. You cannot outrun your negative emotion, and you cannot run into a future where there is better emotion. The only thing that changes your emotion is changing the way that you think.

So my solution is giving yourself enough space to think and next month, we're going to be getting organized in Scholars, it's what we're calling it, and organizing your mind and organizing your life is what gives you space to think. Self-coaching is what cleans up all the negative thinking. Having a purpose and a willingness to fail in your effort to achieve that will release you from all of the burnout. When you are trying to resist failure, that's when you will be stressed all the time, and that's when you will have scarcity.

When you plan properly with your prefrontal cortex, you don't end up emergency-ing with your primitive brain. If you are not planning and you're constantly reacting, you're going to be high on cortisol and you're going to be constantly putting out fires. You're going to be constantly declaring an emergency in your brain. This will wear you out. This will burn you out.

The question is, are you pushing too hard or are you just experiencing overwhelm? So it's hard to tell, but here's how you know when you truly need to do less and rest more. You need to first eliminate overwhelm. Overwhelm looks like this: you cannot use the effect of overwhelm to tell yourself that you're burnt out and that you've been working too hard.

Overwhelming yourself is not working hard. Exhausting yourself with overwhelm is not the same as working too hard. The answer is not rest from that; the answer is to solve for overwhelm. Overwhelm looks like this: confusion about what to do, low productivity, procrastination, an unclear plan. "I don't know what to do, I'm just so busy."

Remember, being busy has nothing to do with your to-do list. It has to do with how many thoughts you have going on in your brain. When you make a list of what you've actually produced, and it's very little, it's because you've been overwhelming. This is not when you need to cut back or take a break.

The solution to this is to actually plan and do more. Countless people come to me and say, "I'm just so overwhelmed, I just don't have time to do this right now", whether it's their self-coaching Scholars work, or whether it's building their business or whether it's coaching their clients, whatever it is, I hear this all the time.

"I just need to take a break, it's just so much" and I'll say, "Well, tell me what you've accomplished." Now, hear the question very differently then tell me what you've done, right? Because what you've been doing, what you've been busy-ing about is not a useful question. What's a useful question is what have you created?

Now, if you give me a list and you say, "I've recorded 15 podcasts and I've created new programs and I just created a new website and then I created a book", then I'm like, "Okay, you've accomplished a lot, you've been working at a steady pace."

Now, here's the thing about that. Usually, once you've done that much creation, you aren't exhausted. If you've done it fueled by abundance, you will be energized after having created all that stuff. That's why once you get your momentum in terms of creation, you keep creating.

People ask me all the time, "How can you create so much content?" I say, "I can't not create it. I'm on a roll." So once you get on that roll, then it's much easier to stay on it. So what have you accomplished? What have you created? And what was fueling that creation? If you are fueled by abundance, you are going to feel motivated and excited to create more.

If you feel overwhelmed, the answer is not to rest. The solution is to plan more. Plan more, plan more, and then do more, do more, do more. And when I say do more, I mean create more results. The emotion driving you to change your mind, do less, change careers and give up, is driven by self-pity. Do not react to self-pity.

Let me tell you the truth about what burnout really looks like. You have full clarity of what to do, your productivity has been high and you have a lot to show from your work, you've planned ahead and executed faithfully on that plan, your thoughts about yourself and your work are positive, you are tempted but aren't feeling sorry for yourself, you have a compelling result, you aren't being driven by scarcity and think that you can make up with it for more, more, more, your plan is now unreasonable, and if your result has become more important than enjoying the journey, then you're probably in burnout.

And that is when you need to take a rest because here's what happens. When you create a compelling result and you don't feel satisfied with that compelling result, it's because you're being fueled by scarcity, and you need to make sure that you re-evaluate that compelling reason. You need to make sure that you understand that life isn't better there. Life isn't any better there than it is here. It's always going to be 50/50. We create that success for the journey. So if we're not enjoying the journey of growing, we need to slow down, prevent the burnout so we can enjoy that.

The solution is to recognize that it won't be better when you get there. The journey has to be better for the result to be better. You are not in a hurry; there is no reason to rush to the result. It's not going to be better there. You need to plan more space and relaxation on purpose. This will be very difficult for you if you're in a hurry. You must continuously release the result and slow down in order to allow for energized productivity.

You want to work smarter and not harder. That needs to be your only goal if you've landed at burnout. Burnout when you are producing results - so overwhelm is when you're not producing results. Burnout means you are producing results, but you're in a hurry to produce the next one because you're trying to find a place where you will ultimately be satisfied. That place and that time will never come and you will burn yourself out trying to create that for yourself.

When I recently went through my own experience at getting myself burnt out, I was able to stop and remind myself that I wasn't in a hurry. I was able to stop and remind myself that it wasn't ever going to be better. There is no goal achievement that will make it better. And rushing to get there serves no purpose. I was able to take a deep breath and adjust my schedule, relax, build in some more space in my time, and then I was able to produce twice as much as what I thought I was capable of, which was super, super fun.

The same is true for you. As you become more productive, as you create more momentum, you need to stay very in tune with yourself and make sure that you understand when you're just overwhelming and feeling sorry for yourself, that is not a time to slow down. And when you're genuinely burnt out because you are in a hurry, you're producing at a high level but you're in a hurry to produce more because you think there is a better place to be than where you are. That's when you need to slow down to really account for making sure that you don't burn yourself out while you're creating results.

I want you to plan more and do more from your prefrontal, and here's what will happen when you do. You will never set yourself up to overwork when you plan ahead. You're never going to plan to work 12 hours a day. Your brain is too smart for that. Your prefrontal cortex is way too smart for that. You'll say, "I'm going to work four hours a day and I'm going to be highly productive." You won't say, "I'm going to work 12" and that is a great way to prevent any kind of overworking burnout rushing to create results.

Okay my friends, have a beautiful week. I'll talk to you next week, bye-bye.

Hey, if you enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out Self-Coaching Scholars. It's my monthly coaching program where we take all this material and we apply it. We take it to the next level and we study it. Join me over at the TheLifeCoachSchool.com/join. Make sure you type in the TheLifeCoachSchool.com/join. I'd love to have you join me in Self-Coaching Scholars. See you there.


  1. I have a question about overwhelm. From the podcast it would seem that I would experience overwhelm, not burnout because I would seem to be busy but not necessarily producing the results. However, I think the reason isn’t as much not planning as it is other emotional issues that get in the way of being productive. For example, today I’m supposed to be working on improving my CV but instead I feel I should do some work on understanding and redirecting my thoughts and resulting emotions about my boyfriend going out with friends yesterday and not inviting me. These thoughts keep coming up and disrupting my focus. So my question is in such situations, what’s the best strategy? Do you have to take care of your emotions first and only then can you be productive as seems to be the case with me, or are there some tricks that you can use with your mind that would allow you to do the work that you planned to do? Of course, when sth is critical, e.g. due a certain day, I can power through the work even if I’m not emotionally in a good place, but then the work doesn’t feel fulfilling, it just feels like a necessity. Thanks!

  2. Hi there, Parts of this episode really didn’t make sense for me. I have believed for a long time that burnout is not necessarily correlated to the amount of work you do but rather about managing emotional energy so I get a lot of where Brooke was coming from. But the thing that really didn’t make sense to me was Brooke said that burnout (as opposed to overwhelm) is a result of three things: 1) stressful thinking, 2) poor planning and 3) scarcity thinking. Re 2) that in particular didn’t make sense to me because Brooke says that how she would tell if someone is burnt out is what they have accomplished. I would dare to assert that someone would not be able to accomplish a high level of results with poor planning. Therefore if the distinction between overwhelm and burnout is the accomplishment level, I would posit that poor planning is a symptom of overwhelm not burnout. Which then causes me to question again how one defines the difference between burnout and overwhelm because I would believe that stressful thinking and scarcity thinking are just as much symptoms of overwhelm as they are burnout. Unlike the poor planning one which I would say is symptomatic only of overwhelm, I think these two could be symptomatic of both, however, this really muddies the water for me in terms of distinguishing the differences.

  3. Burnout is when you are doing something wrong. Putting more effort into doing the same thing isn’t going to produce better results. Dealing with burnout requires stepping back and looking at things from a completely different perspective. Stop what you are doing and try something new.

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