Burnout photo from ShutterstockWe’re a society that’s obsessed with change and growth, and in many ways that’s a great thing. When a person challenges himself to learn new skills, acquire new positive behaviors, adjust to transitions, assume new responsibilities, he typically becomes broader, more productive and emotionally mature. While this is true for most people, it’s also true that a person needs to know his own limits. When a person pushes himself beyond his limits, works too many hours, fails to take care of his health, ignores the relationships in his personal life, the repercussions can be devastating. It’s important to tune into oneself and know when it’s time to take a break or to simply slow down.

We’ve all seen athletes who drop out of their sport altogether after too many years of over taxing their bodies; executives who’ve lost their moral compass from too much focus on getting ahead; and friends who pushed themselves so hard at work that they compromised their personal relationships and/or their physical and mental health. Serious burnout is a very real after effect when a person goes too far in expecting himself to constantly be in a state of progress. The wise person can tune into his own emotional state and know when he needs to say no and when he needs to pull back or take a vacation.

My suggestion to those who are drawn to push too hard is to consider another path; the path of maintenance. During this period one needs to say to oneself that more growth isn’t better! Assume the mindset that taking on new responsibilities, new friends, new hobbies new growth strategies may be good for a future time but isn’t what I need now. Recognize and respect your limits and boundaries and learn to feel good about what you’ve accomplished thus far. Celebrate your accomplishments and enjoy this state for a while.

Healthy maintenance requires discipline; taking time to process what you’re doing well and what areas you need to focus on in order to improve necessitates taking time for oneself. Allowing one’s mind and body to pause from a rigorous active state is a struggle for many people in our fast paced society. There’s no wonder that yoga and meditation are popular pursuits among busy professionals; as people yearn for some down time and quiet space to reflect on one’s life. This time out from moving ahead allows a person the opportunity to make adjustments in one’s personal and work life in order to become happier.

The growth addicts automatically shun maintenance mode and view it as a rationalization for slowing down one’s growth. Don’t let these types inhibit you from appreciating this stage; and relish in knowing that by embracing the maintenance stage you may re-energize yourself for your next period of growth. But for now, if you are feeling overwhelmed, stress-out or resentful for working too much, just focus on holding on to where you are and find time to rejuvenate yourself

For those who are realists and truly want to sustain their growth overtime, knowing one’s limits is essential for achieving long-term growth.

Staying in the same place is not as easy as it sounds as one can fall backwards in this state (imagine climbing a ladder… it’s not so easy to stay still on a rung); it requires a desire to not fall back into a previous, possibly less evolved, emotional place. When a person makes a conscious effort to stay on track (intentionally avoiding a fall) and refraining from the impulse to push forward, this requires discipline and energy. The amount of growth and change that’s good for people varies from person to person. The important idea is to tune into oneself and become intellectually honest with how your drive for growth, change and advancement is affecting you and those around you? If you see signs of increased anxiety, wanting to withdraw socially, sadness, tensions in your personal life or making more mistakes than you usually would, you might consider that it’s time to implement and take pride in embracing the maintenance mode.