8 practices for finding your purpose after burnout, from former CEO

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No matter how much we think we know ourselves and what we want, we can still feel unsure about what the next steps in our careers, and life overall, should be. Feeling trapped in a cycle with no sense of direction often leads to burnout.

Take for instance, Suneel Gupta, who felt more burnt out than ever after exceeding his expectations by selling his wellness company for nearly $20 million in 2016.

Lost and confused, Gupta, who also lectured at Harvard University as a visiting scholar, realized that the key to entering the next phase of his life involved finding his way back to his center, a value that his grandfather instilled in him as a young boy.

You can think of your center as your purpose that keeps you grounded even in moments of uncertainty; it’s what’s referred to in Hinduism as “dharma.”

Gupta embarked on his own journey of gravitating back to his center and compiled a pathway for people to follow in his new book, “Everyday Dharma: 8 Essential Practices For Finding Success and Joy in Everything You Do.”

Here are eight practices you can implement in your life to ground yourself and re-align with your purpose when you’re experiencing burnout.

8 practices for finding your way back to your purpose

  1. Discover what your purpose is: Think about what your “bright spots” are, even as you’re experiencing burnout. Write about what brings you joy and fulfills you, and narrow them all down to a short phrase that encompasses their underlying theme, versus landing on a specific role. For example, your purpose may be “to tell stories,” writes Gupta, and that can mean being an author, a public speaker or a journalist.
  2. Commit to full-hearted devotion: Engage in other activities that bring you joy outside of your purpose. This will help you gain inspiration from your everyday duties and pour all of your heart into your passion when it’s time to focus on it. “When it comes to your dharma, it’s much better to be full-hearted and partly scheduled than fully scheduled and half-hearted,” writes Gupta.
  3. Value energy over time: Remember that committing to your purpose is less about how much time you invest into it and more about how much energy you give it. “When examining a task, don’t just consider how much time it will take—but the quality of energy it will need,” Gupta notes. Pool your energy throughout the day by taking breaks and unleash your energy when you need it the most, he adds.
  4. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable: Sometimes leaning into what makes you uncomfortable can lead you to exactly where you need to be. “If you run from the pain, you also separate yourself from possibilities,” Gupta says in his book. There will always be challenges in life, so it’s best to take a moment to see what your current challenge is trying to teach you.
  5. Prioritize playfulness: Find a way to incorporate more playfulness when pouring into your purpose. “Blurring the lines between work and play is more than a recipe for happiness—it’s a recipe for success,” Gupta writes. Love what you’re doing more than the outcome to avoid disappointment, and aim to fully enjoy the experience no matter what happens, he adds.
  6. Forget yourself to find yourself: Gupta ties this practice to a well-known quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Try focusing more on what you can do for other people, and you may actually be guided to your true calling.
  7. Find a balance between letting go and taking charge: Knowing when to go after something and when to let it go is extremely important for your purpose, Gupta notes. He likened Gandhi and his grandfather’s pursuits of their purpose to watching a sailboat captain: “There was a wind available for them to harness, and it was always important to know which way it was blowing. To never oppose that natural force, and always use it to their advantage through timing and trust.”
  8. Take action first, and courage will follow: Most people believe that you need to have courage first to act on things, but Gupta believes that there are some moments where you need to act first for courage to flow in. “Action doesn’t always lead to achievement,” writes Gupta, “but if it’s in line with your dharma, it will always bring you closer to who you really are.”

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