by Paul White

Have you ever run out of gas on a trip?  Similarly, experiencing burnout in life or at work is painful, as well. The two experiences are quite similar, and the ones you want to avoid.

When your car runs out of gas, the event itself isn’t that bad – the vehicle stops, and you can’t go anywhere, but you can’t get restarted. The consequences that follow are what creates the disruptions in your life.  First, you have to recognize what the problem is: you used up all of your fuel. Next, you need to get past your frustration, anger, and embarrassment so you can start doing some problem-solving. While your first line of thinking maybe – “How (and where) do I get more fuel?” – the real question to consider is: “How does this impact my immediate plans?”  So you do some quick thinking and determine who you need to call and notify of your situation. Then you move into problem-solving mode, hoping it is not going to take too long to resolve the situation (which depends, of course, where you are when you run out of gas).

The Best Solution: Avoid Running Out of Gas

While we could approach the issue from the perspective of how to deal with burnout, the best solution is to avoid becoming burned out. So let’s look at a few, relatively easy actions that can help us:

  1. Check the Gas Gauge.If you don’t want to run out of gas, it is wise to check your gas gauge occasionally. Are you at ¾ tank? ¼ tank? Almost empty? Some of us aren’t too self-aware (almost like our gas gauge doesn’t work) OR we keep going and going without thinking about our fuel level. If you don’t want to burn out, you need to be aware of your current energy level.
  2. Consider Your Fuel Level and the Journey Ahead.Not only do we have to be aware of the amount of fuel we have in reserve, but we also need to be mindful of the journey that lies ahead. Are we just going to be running a few errands in town, or are we starting on a long road trip? The amount of fuel needed differs significantly. Similarly, in life, sometimes we need just enough energy to get through the next day or so, while other times, we are headed into a long stretch of demanding engagements before we are going to be able to recharge.
  3. Determine Where and When You Can Refuel.  Determining ahead of time, the distance to the next refueling opportunity is prudent. It can help reduce your anxiety about whether you can make it to the next gas station and rest area. In real life, we have to make and take the time to recharge our energy levels – physical, emotional, relational, and even spiritual. This has to be part of our plan for life – work, do give AND rest, recuperate and re-energize. (By the way, sometimes we need to stop and “fill up the tank” rather than just put in $2 of gas every day – which calls for longer times of rest.)
  4. Make the Necessary Adjustments to Make it to the Next Refueling. Sometimes we have to make some decisions along the way that will allow us to “stretch” what we have in our tank as far as possible. The gauge says (and has said for a while) that we are on empty. We feel like we are running on fumes and could run out of gas entirely before we’ve completed our trip. When we are in this type of situation, we have to alter our plans – slow down, so we don’t use up our fuel so quickly; go off of our original path to reach a closer gas station, or call someone and ask if they can bring us a gas can with a little fuel to keep us going. This happens in life, too – needing to slow down so we can make it, take a detour and say no to some plans, or ask for some help.

Pay attention to the early warning signs (irritability, discouragement, pushing yourself, impatience are a few). Make some adjustments, and life will go far more smoothly for you and those around you!

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