In the modern world, our lives are often consumed by the constant pursuit of success, recognition, and validation. From a young age, we’re conditioned to believe that we must achieve more to be deemed worthy and accepted by society. This relentless drive to belong can quickly lead to burnout, as we push ourselves to the brink, seeking fulfilment on the other side of all our hard work.

In this blog post, we’ll explore how our societal pressure to achieve, coupled with our innate need for approval, often comes at the expense of our health and well-being. We’ll discuss the importance of slowing down, redefining success, and embracing a more human approach to work and life.

The Pursuit of Approval

Throughout our lives, we often seek approval from others, our parents, our friends, our colleagues and our bosses, basing our self-worth on external validation. This need for validation becomes ingrained in our psyche from an early age, as we strive to be the best student, the most accomplished athlete, or the most successful professional. We’re taught that our worth is tied to our accomplishments, leaving little room for the acknowledgement of our inherent value as individuals.

As we grow older, the pressure to succeed intensifies. Society’s emphasis on achievement and comparison can lead to a constant feeling of not being good enough. The fear of failure and the desire to prove ourselves drive us to work tirelessly, often neglecting our well-being in the process.

The Burnout Dilemma

The pursuit of success at any cost can lead us down a dangerous path to burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion resulting from prolonged stress and overwork. It’s often characterised by feelings of cynicism, detachment, and a reduced sense of accomplishment. Our relentless pursuit of goals without acknowledging our limits and the need for rest can leave us emotionally drained and physically depleted.

Slowing Down for a More Sustainable Approach

Slowing down doesn’t mean giving up on our ambitions; it means recognising the importance of self-care and setting boundaries. Let’s be clear: working hard is not inherently a bad thing. In fact, in short bursts, it can be positive and productive. However, when we fail to slow down and neglect to recognise our limits, working hard can quickly turn toxic, becoming an ingrained and unhealthy habit.

Embracing a more human approach to work and life allows us to achieve a healthier balance. By taking the time to rest and recharge, we can become more focused on what matters and more creative in our pursuits.

Understanding that our worth extends beyond our accomplishments is crucial for combating burnout. Our inherent value as individuals lies in who we are, not just what we do. We must cultivate self-compassion and remind ourselves that it’s okay to take breaks, ask for help, and seek support when needed.

Building Supportive Environments

As leaders, it’s essential to create supportive environments that value individuals not solely for their productivity or achievements but for their unique qualities and contributions. Promoting work-life integration and encouraging mental and physical well-being fosters a culture where burnout is less likely to occur. Flexible work arrangements, developing self-awareness in team members, and encouraging open communication about the challenges of achieving work-life balance can make a significant difference in employees’ overall well-being.

Redefining Success

Redefining success is crucial in combating the burnout epidemic. Instead of solely measuring success by external achievements, we should celebrate personal growth and self-regulation, along with the ability to find joy in the journey. By embracing a more holistic view of success, we can release ourselves from the shackles of constant comparison and unattainable standards.


In our pursuit to belong and be more, we often sacrifice our health and well-being. Burnout is a consequence of the relentless pressure to achieve, coupled with the need for approval from others. However, we can break free from this cycle by embracing a more human approach to work and life.

Effectively addressing this issue requires a three-pronged approach…

Firstly, individuals need to acknowledge their feelings, learn to self-regulate and set boundaries, enabling them to take responsibility for their emotions and actions.

Secondly, leaders play a crucial role in creating psychologically safe environments, where team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings, thus fostering trust and openness so that people can be authentic.

Lastly, organisations need to invest in the development of self-awareness in both leaders and their teams. Promoting a deeper understanding of human behaviour and what makes us tick will unleash untapped potential.

By implementing this multifaceted approach, workplaces can pave the way for healthier and more sustainable work cultures, reducing the risk of burnout and promoting overall employee well-being.

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