How do I unlearn burnout?

In my Medium post about the World Health Organization reclassifying burnout as a work-related health concern, I also said that you can change your life. You can unlearn your burnout ways.

And you can. Even if you're desperately burnt out. Even if you've felt this way for years. Even if you're secretly afraid that any working solution won't actually work for you. 

Don't believe me? It's ok, I get it.

Believing you can change can seem really scary at first. Especially if you have years and years of data that suggest otherwise. Which brings us to our first lesson in how to unlearn burnout. 

Step one: Don't believe everything your brain tells you.

The brain is a glorious thing. It can process billions of bits of information per second. Billions! But not all information is processed equally. In fact, the brain has many biases that shape how it perceives the world. 

So, when you think about whether you can change, your brain goes looking for data. But it doesn't just bring you impartial memories. Instead, it brings you memories that align with your current beliefs. This is like when a student writes a paper and only includes sources that support her thesis. It might seem like a tidy argument, but it's not actually a complete picture. 

You see what I'm getting at here. If you believe you can't change, if you believe that it's too hard or scary or just downright impossible, well, then that's the lens through which your brain will find evidence. And your belief will just "seem true" to you.

But, have you ever surprised yourself before? I'm sure you have, even if that's not the data your brain is pulling up right now.

When I was in my early twenties, a friend convinced me to try country dancing. I didn't want to do it. I predicted I would hate it. Literally, I planned to hate it, ahead of time. Why would I do that? Because, based on my brain's findings, it just seemed "logical" to me at the time. But, as many of you know, I did not, in fact, hate country dancing at all. I loved it. Completely and immediately. And in that moment, I learned something incredibly important. I learned that I am not actually the best predictor of myself. It was a little unsettling to be honest. But it was also really fucking awesome. Because it gave me permission to not know. To be surprised. To be delighted. 

Are you willing to be surprised? To be delighted? These things are not as far away as you may think. Start now. Just notice what your brain is saying to you all day long. Notice it, and then question it. Notice it, and then ask yourself if there's another way to see things, another way to tell the story. (And there always, always is.)