3 Things I Learned From Burning Out - Legally Bold

3 Things I Learned From Burning Out


In the early 2000s, psychologists Dorthe Berntsen and David Rubin conducted a study in which participants were asked to write down the most important events that are likely to happen in one’s lifetime. Predictably, some of the most common moments were marriage, having children, going to college, falling in love, and the death of a parent or loved one. 

It’s easy to see how those transitional moments can define someone’s life. When you get married, lose someone, or have children, you move from one identity to another instantly. You were single, and suddenly you’re married. You were a high school graduate, and now you’re a college student. You were childless, and now a little person is calling you mommy or daddy. 

But big transitional moments aren’t the only moments that define us. There are smaller moments of insight that can transform our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Oprah calls these events “aha moments” because they feel like something rewired our brains. What was once uncertain or unknown becomes very, very clear.

These smaller moments of insights are usually preceded by longer periods of indecision or consideration. And the lessons learned from those moments don’t always show up in an instant. Sometimes you have to go through an experience and fully process it to get any insight.

I’m bringing this up because many of the lawyers I talk to are on the cusp of such a moment. They’ve considered doing something about their career woes for some time but often stop short of deciding to change things. 

I’m here to tell you that making a decision, instead of sitting in indecision month after month, is always the right call. No matter what you do, the road ahead won’t be easy, but the insights and defining moments that will transform your life are always worth it.

Let me give you an example.

In 2016-2017, I went through an episode of burn out that turned out to be one of the major inflection points of my life. Initially, this experience felt like a setback because I had just left my job to start a practice a year earlier. Now that I am a couple of years removed from it, I understand that I had to go through it to learn some lessons that continue to serve me every day. Here are the top 3.

Lesson #1 Connect With People and Ask For Help

I’ve always been the kind of person who enjoys solving problems for people. Friends would come to me for advice in all sorts of areas, and I prided myself on providing a solution or insight. But when it came to my own problems, I never really talked about them or asked for help. Often it was because I felt like I didn’t have the words to describe my feelings. I also didn’t like being vulnerable in front of other people. 

Now I know that connection and asking for help are vital parts of business building, getting ahead in your career, and the human experience generally. People enjoy connecting and networking with authentic people who aren’t afraid to imperfectly ask for help or share their triumphs and failures. It gives them permission to do the same and builds that sense of trust and community that we all want in our lives.

Lesson #2 Be Honest Even If You Have To Disappoint  

If you are used to being dependable and pleasing others, disappointing someone can feel shameful. So instead of admitting when you missed a deadline or failed to do something, you can end up lying to protect your ego, dodging phone calls, or making up phantom emails that somehow end up in spam. Trust me, I get it, and I’ve done it, especially when I was burned out. But behaving like that only makes things worse, and people can smell BS even if they can’t prove it. 

Instead, I’ve learned to admit when I’m wrong and take responsibility. If I miss an appointment, forget to send an email, or blow past a deadline, I’m honest about it even if I’m cringing at myself for the blunder. People respect honesty, even when they are disappointed by the truth.   

Lesson #3 Schedule Less To Get More Done

We need more rest than we realize. Although our culture promotes productivity, hustling hard, and grinding, continually doing something creates stress and inhibits our ability to think clearly.  

Rest is the antidote to this. Rest clears the cobwebs and bring in some perspective and levity to a situation. It creates space for innovation, creative thinking, and makes us happier. You can’t process if you are always moving and doing more and more. And for the most part, you are not getting ahead by taking that approach either. 

If you genuinely want to get more done, try adding rest to your schedule. Literally, make an appointment with yourself to do nothing. You will be surprised at how much progress you make towards the goals that matter in return. 

Have you had any unexpected moments that defined you? What were they, and what lessons did you learn? Let me know in the comments below.