Without a rope…when you're most alive and a surprising solution to burnout
Updated: Oct 15
This story starts with an inspiration of mine – a man named Alex Honnold.
Alex captures my imagination and his exploits touch the deepest part of my soul. Amongst other things he’s a rock climber and found fame in ever-widening circles for what is known as free soloing…climbing without a rope.
No ropes means
• No do overs
• No safety net
• No protection.
If you slip off the rock…well the end is obvious. So he just doesn’t slip off ever. Easy right. Well it’s a bit more complicated than that!
Alex’s most famous free solo to date was the June 2017 ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley in the USA. A 3000m climb, high exposure with an outlook over the valley, difficult climbing with really scary moments, 3 hours and 56 minutes of total concentration. Now you won’t find me free soloing anytime soon, but what is it about this adventure that captures my imagination and touches my soul? I’ll tell you. It’s the feelings he describes – his motivation for taking on such an adventure in the first place.
Alex describes a feeling of freedom, of ‘flow’. He has a complete and quiet confidence in himself, is perfectly in-tune with his own body and the natural surrounds and describes a feeling of wonder and awe.
When was the last time you really felt like that?!
An antidote to burnout
Now what does Alex’s experiences with free soloing have to do with burnout? When he’s alone on the mountain he perfectly describe an antidote to burnout – the feeling of freedom and flow. This feeling is one I know very well.
For years I dabbled in rock climbing. I loved the movement, the communion with nature and feeling at peace with myself and the world. I always had a rope physically tying me to another person, but it felt like my soul was running free. Standing at the top of the cliff I was about to climb felt like my church, my religion.
But really importantly, I always felt most alive and true to myself. Then life got busy and I climbed less and less. I still had glimpses of those feelings, but they became fleeting as life got in the way. Eventually I stopped doing anything really that kept me in alignment.
For about 7 years there it was grim - my work was demanding and I let it be so. Breaking down that 7 years, I can see now the 5 years preceding ‘the burnout event’ was actually me hurtling towards burnout and not even knowing it. I was progressively getting more and more out of alignment and away from that sense of freedom and flow.
The next 2 years? In July 2017 I burnt out so completely I felt lost. I was unable to work, to function socially, even get out of bed for a while. If you do it right burnout takes a long time to put yourself back together again. And it was years...years before I started to get that feeling back - the one where I felt most like myself again.
That feeling was the start of my recovery period. A huge part of burnout recovery involved tapping back into the parts of myself that I had lost. The real me - not the fake ‘busy’ me, not the pleaser, the perfectionist, the hedonist who needed to escape and soothe…the part of me that felt most alive and true to myself. That feeling of freedom and flow. Sometimes the years are needed to strip away the trappings of life that we get sucked into. It’s taken me a long time to tap back into the Sarah I had once been – the climber with freedom in her soul.
So I ask again, when did you last feel freedom and flow?
- Complete and quiet confidence in yourself
- Perfectly in-tune with your own body and the natural surrounds
- Feelings of wonder and awe.
To me, this is feeling most like yourself!
For you to ponder...
We grow and develop over the years and what used to feel comfortable changes…sure. But that feeling of freedom and ‘flow’ never changes – it’s your happy place.
For some it’s a memory. For others it’s a certain person or group of people. It might be a location. Or a state of mind. Even a smell. The circumstances are not what’s important here, it’s what it represents. That feeling it evokes - this is your ticket away from burnout.
So you may want to take this question and ponder it for a while - 'When do you feel most yourself?'
We all need that feeling in our lives and if it’s been a while for you, then maybe time to do something about it. This is truly the antidote to feeling burnt out from life.
What happened to Alex Honnold? I’m really glad to report that he’s still with us. He’s now married with a 7 month child. He became more mainstream, publishing a book and was featured in a documentary with more on the way. He also runs a really important charity called Honnold Foundation.
But Alex still has massive adventures and I can see in his smile he’s that same adventurous climber at heart. He’s helped me re-align myself back to what’s most important and I’ve no doubt inspired countless others with his pursuits.
Want to find your flow in 2023?
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This is both personal and professional support as you navigate away from high stress and burnout, towards what provides you with energy and vitality.
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Sarah Vizer is the creator of Beyond Burnout.
As a High Performance and Anti-Burnout Specialist she supports our top professionals unlock the high achievement they are so capable of, without the burnout of course!
She offers individual and team support for you and your organisation.
You can find her at www.sarahvizer.com