How to Dream Big and Avoid Burnout
By Neal Samudre
May 22, 2013
Neal Samudre is a twenty-somethings writer, student, and future pastor. He writes for InterVarsity, studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and is currently working to publish his debut book with Prodigal Press in April 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NealSamudre to see more of his writings.
Several years ago, I was captivated by an altruistic vision: change the world. Being the naïve person that I was, I figured this would be easy, especially if we have God on our side. If God is for us, then who can stop us, right?
Since then, I’ve come to learn two things. First, yes, God is for us.He loves our dreams and aspirations. He encourages, inspires and cultivates it like a loving Father would. But second, a Father also disciplines and closes doors for us in order to refine us.
Reflecting on my years, I see a mistake of mine being that I confuse God knowing what’s best for me with me not doing my best. I believed that when I failed, it’s not because God wills it. It’s because I wasn’t trying hard enough.
Burnout is what results when you can’t reconcile failure with radical vision.
Burnout is what results when you can’t reconcile failure with radical vision. I went through this period where I wasn’t inspired to pursue any of my gifts or take any risks because my vision had been stained by my failure.
This unfortunately, can affect any of us. There are many people I know who have a God-centered radical vision for the world or their community. But in this vision, there is no room for failure. And if there is failure along the road, we go blaming our inability rather than seeing it as refinement. In this case, the question “Am I doing my best?” can become the nail in the burnout coffin. We can tortue ourselves with this question when we fail to see the big picture.
If you are like me, someone who has suffered from burnout and sometimes lost sight of God's vision for his life, it’s time to reengage that vision with these three things in mind.
1) Don’t expect too much out of yourselfAt times, we can cultivate this romanticized view of our capability—"I can do anything I put my mind to!"—but we’re not superhuman. We endure pain, we suffer, and we can only take so much. When I considered my radical vision, I saw it as way bigger than my capability allowed. This was because vision can sometimes blind us from who we really are—human.
In his book, The Crowd, the Critic and the Muse, Michael Gungor said, “Burnout is what happens when you avoid being human for too long.” Being human means you have limits to everything. Vision should never exceed those limits when you rely wholly on yourself.
2) Don’t expect too much out of others
Sometimes burnout happens because we’ve been staying within the box for too long—especially when the borders of this box are enforced by other people. When we allow our vision to cater to our desired response from people, we are really limiting our vision rather than acting out on it.
“Burnout is what happens when you avoid being human for too long.” -Michael Gungor
We often look for affirmation for our vision from people, but this can turn into a confinement box in itself. Affirmation should not be wholly dependent on what other people think, but that doesn’t mean you don’t take other’s advice at all. Hone your craft or vision with the advice of people who care for you and know what you’re doing.
3) Expect a lot out of God
As a Christian, my work and vision is influenced by God. Once I was able to focus on God’s role in my vision, I was able to see that my craft and vision has a purpose and is a process. We may not know where we are going, but that's OK if we are letting God lead us.
My biggest mistake that resulted in my burnout was that I limited God. My view of God didn’t increase in relation to my vision. As a result, my vision became stagnant, stuck within the confines of my capability and the box people forced it in. And if something doesn’t grow or change, it becomes dead and lifeless.
But our God is a God who leads us to see outside of ourselves. He shows us that a vision centered on Him for His glory knows no limits. The easiest way to avoid burnout is to look to the One who sets our hearts ablaze for Himself.
When you let God be God in your vision, you become refined by failure, not defined by it. He guides it and leads it into the unknown where growth happens. So if you are holding your vision close to your chest, torturing yourself by questioning your capability, let God graciously interrupt you. Dare to be radical with vision by trusting in Him who inspires it.