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When you're ready to give up on the thing you love.

As I took my seat at the meeting table, I struggled with the overwhelming desire to scream.

Scream at the people sitting around me;

scream in the face of every decision made;

scream at the fact that I couldn’t develop any enthusiasm for the one place in the world I loved so much – my local community theatre company.

I was angry at the world for using me up and taking advantage of the fact that I was a passionate ‘doer’ of things.

The passion and enthusiasm I had once shared with my team members had dissolved into a cynical, bitter, angry mess of tears that threatened to spill out with the least provocation. I couldn’t remember the days of freedom to create, joy in sharing my passion with my theatre community, excited by the goals the team was working towards.

A beautiful woman serving on the team with me, noticed my unusual state and privately challenged me to acknowledge my burnout and reconsider my approach. As I sat on my couch all those years ago, considering what my friend had said, I was shocked to realise something.

I recognised that I was the problem!

I had allowed myself to get beyond passion into being driven; that state of being that convinces you that you are the only one who can get things done and sometimes prevents you from recognising the value of others. Horrible. This wasn't me. This wasn't what I believed. I realised I was 'functioning' to survive which left little emotional room for anyone else.

Something had to change. Change is constant and ongoing and what I learned in this season, has been the basis of many conversations with colleagues experiencing the same things I had. So fire up your ‘self awareness’ mode and think about this –

Being DRIVEN means

  1. Boundaries (if there are any) are exploited and you say ‘yes’ too much;

  2. You stop listening to others and yourself; and

  3. You feel you are the only one who can fix everything.

Being PASSIONATE means

  1. You can set boundaries that ironically, make you more effective. You are deliberate in your choices and you acknowledge your time as valuable.

  2. Passion wants the input of others, to share ideas, to be encouraged, and to encourage. It listens and values other opinions and it is self aware.

  3. You are not alone, you acknowledge the team and seek to include others.

So how did I get from driven to passionate? How did I recover from burnout? Service is an integral part of my being and I knew that just walking away and focussing on myself forever and a day was a recipe for mental health disaster. I can only offer you what I learned for myself.

1. Be honest and acknowledge what you really want.

Do you want to help out front of house or are you excited by encouraging change within the culture of your community theatre organisation? Every role in your organisation is valuable, regardless of its prominence. Be prepared to help out where and when necessary but don’t be pushed into a role you know you’re not suited to, long term. You're allowed to say 'no'.

My journey included recognising why I always said 'yes' to things people asked me to do. I had wrapped up acceptance with 'helping'. It took time and study to understand this and even longer to say 'no' without feeling like I was letting people down but gradually, it started feeling more natural and the difference in my life is significant.

2. Recognise what you’re good at or what really fires you up.

You have a gift for something. Don’t give me the humble bit – “I’m not good at anything.” – That is total rubbish. You are. Find it, own it and do it. The mistake you’ve probably made is trying to work outside your gifts and talents. You compare yourself to others and try to function in a role that doesn’t suit you. Choosing to do something you’re not suited to will lead to stress, burnout and being a pain in the behind to all who have to work with you.

Let me figuratively slap you around a little here. You will never be happy trying to be something you’re not built for. Acknowledge your gifting, work in it, and get good at it. There is nothing to compare with the feeling you get when you know you’re doing what you were built to do, and seeing the positive impact you can have will bring you immeasurable joy.

3. Learn to be really good in your gifting.

Get better. Study, learn and practice your skills. This is a forever thing. Enjoy the process. You’re going to make mistakes. Acknowledge mistakes as a step to improvement, not a wall to stop you. If I could get back all the hours I wasted letting my mistakes bring me down, I would be ecstatic. It is the biggest waste of freakin’ time!

Mistakes don’t make you a bad person, they don’t make you a stupid person, they don’t mean you will never get where you’re going. They mean you are taking a risk and actually living life, and anyone who tells you different needs to get out of your way and go back to achieving nothing in this world!

Keep seeking. Keep moving forward. Keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t talk so much. Listen more. Learn more. Say ‘no’ more. Be deliberate in your plan for your theatre life. Don’t let it just happen to you. You’ve got this - Just begin!

The best you can do is all you need to do!

Sherryl-Lee Secomb writes her blog, An Idiot On Stage, specifically to encourage and equip community theatre to expect more and be extraordinary. Sher has been building brands for performing creatives in Australia since 2011 and now advises theatre organisations and performing artists in marketing their work and building awareness of their brand.


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