13 The next day Moses sat down to judge the people, and they stood around Moses from morning until evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw everything he was doing for them he asked, “What is this thing you’re doing for the people? Why are you alone sitting as judge, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?”
15 Moses replied to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.16 Whenever they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I make a decision between one man and another. I teach them God’s statutes and laws.”
17 “What you’re doing is not good,” Moses’ father-in-law said to him. 18 “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone. Exodus 18:13-18
Many of us can find ourselves in a situation like Moses, where as the leader we undertake many responsibilities out of necessity. However, God sent Moses’ father-in-law at just the right time to help Moses see that he was on the path to burnout. What can we do to better deal with burnout and help ourselves be the best leader possible for the long term?
Burnout is a term used often for people who are stressed, have become desperately emotionally numb, lost passion about work or life, and anything remotely close to feeling out of control. It’s not a term lost among those who are high up the leadership ladder, as they run the risk of having to deal with burnout at any given time. Is this the life that God wants for us? Certainly not! Moses’ life is a great example of a leader of a nation that learned well how to avoid and deal with burnout. Here are a few things I would recommend to help you deal with any burnout in your life.
Listen to your soul.
There is no doubt that as a leader, there are going to be many voices in your head. From the constituents to employees to your family, everyone wants a piece of your time, a part of your life. It is imperative that you listen to your own soul. What does your soul need? How can you nurture your soul and feed your soul so that you can be the best you possible? Burnout comes because leaders fail to take care of their souls. They become caught up in activity and fail to take time to grow who they are. As a leader, taking care of your soul needs to be first priority because everything else will flow from that. In other words, what brings a spark to your eye? What makes you want to dance? What puts a pep in your step? What minsters to the deepest part of you? Answering questions like these and being able to live out of a place like this will help you go a long way in dealing with burnout.
Listen to your family/friends and wise counsel.
Moses didn’t play the “I’m the leader, God’s chosen” card when his father-in-law offered him some great advice. Instead, Moses being the great leader he was, listened and heeded the advice. It’s really important to pay attention to the people God places in your life that love you and care about you as a person…not as the “leader”. Listening to them, especially when they begin to give you hints that you are not doing well emotionally or spiritually is vitally important. They know you well, so listen to what they have to say. Burnout happens quickly when we disengage from those closest to us. to deal with burnout, schedule time with family and friends often.
Listen to what God says.
Take a sabbath frequently. In fact, sabbath is meant to be a once-a-week kind of thing, right? God knew what He was doing when He gave us the model for our lives by commanding us to remember the sabbath and keep it holy. That means keep it different and unique; not like a work day but a rest day. Sabbath is not meant to just be a day to have recreation but to re-created. If you want to effectively deal with burnout in your life, maintaining a consistent practice of sabbath is a must.
Listen to what your body says.
Our bodies have built in responders to stress and burnout. These indicators can be anything from fatigue, nervous reactions, sleepiness, irritability, lack of passion, no excitement, loss of appetite, crying or depression. The list could go on but you get the point. When your body starts acting differently, it’s important to pay attention. It may be that more sleep would help but this is just an indication that your body is not “resting” during sleep. Vitamins, medication, or even more sleep is not necessarily the answer. The right answer may be to step back or step out of some roles and lesson the amount of stress.
Listen to the future.
What do you need to hear from yourself and from God about the future? God intends for you to be around until He completes His task and work in you. If burning out is not God’s intention, then God has a future plan for you. How can you best prepare and be ready for the future? How can you deal with burnout now so that you can better burn then? There is something awaiting you and God wants you to be able to embrace it with all you have. Don’t cheat tomorrow by burning out today. Many leaders get burned out because the flames of today create so much smoke they can’t see their way out. Make sure you celebrate often and acknowledge the successes of now because that is what will propel you into the future. Take time often to dream about the future and let those dreams inspire you and keep the fire going.
Listen to Jethro.
Surround yourself with great leaders who can do things to assist you. A leader is not a know-it-all nor a doer-of-it-all, even though they may think otherwise. Jethro was wise and courageous enough to tell God’s man he needed to appoint some other people to help. This may be the advice you need most: surround yourself with competent people who will lift you up and help you carry the heavy load. If you are dealing with burnout, it’s time to get help. Don’t pretend that you don’t need it. Instead, look around and see how God has already equipped you with the right people in the right places. They may need a little prodding and teaching but they can do it if you as a leader will let go and let God be God.