By: Danielle Wilson
As a dancer of 25 years, I’ve learned that no matter how passionate you are about a given art form, practice, hobby, interest, or career there will always be chapters on your journey when the motivation you’ve been drawing on seems to dwindle. There was a time when I beat myself up for the lack of drive I would experience towards dance (and now, yoga, writing, and choreographing). My internal dialogue would quickly transform into harsh judgement and criticism. I knew, deep down, that my passion was still very much alive, but the burn out was REAL, leaving me feeling guilty for the things I love most seeming burdensome.
The truth is, in the west, we are conditioned to work, and grind, and go, go, go until the inevitable burn out commences. It’s our culture, and although, as yogis, we can place plenty of energy and intention on cultivating ease and balance, the conditioning we’ve been exposed to will always wiggle its way into our lives! So, our challenge is not to rid ourselves of these uninspired spells because that is a losing battle that will only bring on excessive feelings of guilt, shame, or judgement. We also can’t continue showing up monotonously with the expectation that external forces (i.e. our instructor, the music, the weather, interactions with other people) will suddenly flip our motivation switch back on. Yes, sometimes this does happen, and I’d say that’s the Universe working its magic for our benefit, but given that we create our own reality, can’t we empower ourselves into rekindling our own doused fire? What we really need is to discover and recruit the tools within our grasp that drive us back to our dance floor, mat, office, or cushion!
I both acknowledge and celebrate that everyone is undoubtedly different, so I’m positive that the specific tools working for me could be farfetched from the ones you discover for yourself, but I do believe the principle behind them is the same. The key to recharging during a burnout, I have found, is diving into the multitude of interesting and creative aspects of life that bring you pure joy—activities or states of being whose only result is a more fulfilled and revitalized YOU! For me, that includes, but is not limited to: reading, writing, listening to podcasts, going for a walk, practicing yoga, jamming to music, hitting up a coffee shop, being in nature, intelligent/existential conversations, dancing in my living room, burning incense, cuddling with my cats, watching documentaries, attempting to cook (key word being “attempt”), and cleaning my house. One of the coolest things about being human is that there is probably an infinite list of things that ignite the light of our spirit. Your job is not only to figure out (if you haven’t already) what that list entails, but also to determine what on your list will serve you best on a given day, and most importantly, making the time to indulge in it!
You may notice that some of the joys on my list of simple fulfillments also happen to be areas of my life that are cause for burnout. Dance, yoga, and writing are all major passions of mine that started off as hobbies and eventually landed as careers. The “job” aspect of these interests can easily lead to me feeling strained in my passion for them. This is where choosing something on my list that serves me comes into play. I’m currently approaching competition season with my dancers, meaning I have spent the past five months choreographing and rehearsing about 20 different dances! By now, my creative juices are low, and to be honest, the usual pliés and pirouettes that make my light shine brighter don’t have as much of an affect this time of year. So, in order to keep pushing forward in my work feeling inspired and motivated, it is imperative that I fill my time outside of work with non-dance related activities.
What I’ve found most beneficial about this balanced state of living, this yin and yang of working towards success in my career, but equally enjoying aspects of life that don’t necessarily provide a tangible reward in the end, is that I always end up finding inspiration for my work within the personal interests I make time for. My simple pleasures also have the power to alter my perspective of the larger passions I dedicate myself to, allowing me to experience them in ways I never would have imagined. For example, a lyric in a song, a cue in a yoga class, or a thought provoking conversation can all spark something in my soul that makes me think about or teach dance in a completely different way! Something that I would never experience if I limited the investment of my time to just a handful of my passions.
I’m sure some of you may be thinking, well duh! ‘All work and no play’ is NO way to live your life, and you know what, you are so right! But if you are anything like me, it is too easy to get lost in the sauce of your endeavors, to push and push and push until there is no push left to give. It may sound crazy, but I have to actively remind myself to slow down and make time for the little things I love so much, as well as be diligent in recognizing the signs of my burn out: negative self-talk, a reluctance to show up, feeling burdened by the things I otherwise enjoy, etc. Once in a while, I can be stubborn in my attempt to pull myself out of an uninspired rut—meaning I recognize I’m burnt out, but I just don’t have it in me to dive into anything on my list either. Usually this is a sign that what I really need is rest. In this scenario, a few nights of good sleep, a long hot bath, or a day lounging on the couch are all prerequisites to reveling in my list of simple pleasures.
It’s necessary to point out that maintaining an awareness of Self is the only way to successfully identify where you’re at and what you need as you navigate fluctuations in your mood and motivation towards your passions. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, or just living a conscious lifestyle are a few solid tools that can aid you in this awareness.
As we step into February, I hope for you to feel inspired to stimulate your creativity and indulge in pleasures that don’t have an end game other than refilling your cup! Investing time in our grander goals and passions helps us attain higher heights in life, but the climb is never a steadfast journey. Filling pockets of your time diving into the simpler activities that light up your soul will inspire you to continue on your larger trek! Our spirits are multifaceted with an infinite amount of interests to investigate. Finding balance in your life by making time for goals and passions of all scales is really just the most active and accurate reflection of your soul, so no wonder these tools promote such healing and happiness!
What calls to your soul when you’re feeling burnt out by your regular investments? Let me know in the comments below!