The entrepreneur's passion fatigue

If only …

Do you ever find yourself saying or thinking this about your business? If only? If only the sale would come in, if only you had the right person on the team, if only you had more time, if only... 

The trait people most admire in entrepreneurs is their passion. That sense of positive energy for making a change in the world and doing something meaningful. It drives you to start and build your business, to put in those long hours and set your life aside to make it happen. You draw on it to persevere against the unexpected demands and obstacles that block your way to making your business-vision a reality. Passion sustains you to do what you have to do.

For many of us though, passion is also what drains our energy and causes us to lose our perspective.

A snowy ride along a Halifax ridge in late January

A snowy ride along a Halifax ridge in late January

I believe many entrepreneurs experience what I call passion fatigue. It is beyond simple burnout. It's not just being worn-down physically and needing time to recharge. Passion fatigue actually changes you. It hurts you physically, emotionally and in your spirit (the real driver of your business). You are still engaged and trying hard to make it all work but losing perspective on what makes sense. You lose sight of healthy work-life balance.

It often starts with time. Not having enough time is the enemy of entrepreneurs. So, you try to compensate for trying to do too much in too little time by multi-tasking, guzzling caffeine and cutting exercise out. You eliminate the things that actually help the most, such as being with family and friends, having outside interests and taking reflection time. No matter how much sleep you get, you wake up feeling exhausted, but you feel like you have to keep working.

You apply your passion for your business to such an extent you lose yourself to the business. There is nothing other than the company and making it work. You isolate, as you don’t want to hear opposition to your lifestyle. Your entrepreneurial passion is so overused it becomes passion fatigue dragging you down rather than energizing you. This marks the start of the downward slide, towards the dark side.

The irony of compassion fatigue is that although it is flourishing in the startup community and entrepreneurs in general, it is self-imposed. You put pressure on yourself to live up to incredibly demanding standards and expectations.

I think many of the business failures and lost potential that entrepreneurs experience result from passion fatigue and not being able to pull back from losing your identity to the business.

Let’s be clear so you know what I mean. It is not just being tired; it is feeling a weight on your shoulders, a blanket over your mind and chains around your feet. You are exhausted but still moving. You are like a walker in the walking dead.

You have trouble making decisions, you start blaming the people around you, and you find your positive energy sliding into complaints about how things are. You are changing.

It doesn’t happen all at once so you don’t always notice it. Passion fatigue is a gradual wearing down of your spirit, constant exhaustion, tiring of hearing about what other people need and not feeling like you are accomplishing anything.


You are tired of reading about it and pull your hoodie up to shut it out. So, what do you do about it?

Just as passion fatigue is self-imposed, it can be self-eliminated. You can get that positive sense of passion back that fuels your energy and inspires those around you. And it is simple, but, you saw this coming, it isn’t easy.

If time is the energy, it is also your friend. Used in a way to support your energy, time is the way to channel your passion to achieve what you want with your business.

The paradox of time is that to get the time you want you actually have to give up the time you feel you don’t have.

Protecting your passion is about setting boundaries to keep a sense of you intact. You are a person separate from your business.

Three things will help you keep passion fatigue in check:

  1.        Take time each day to reflect on your own. Just get a half hour to shut it all down and think about how you are doing and what is happening around you. It is about being mindful. No business, just you.
  2.        Recharge daily by taking time to exercise. Exercise, and whatever it is for you, is the one clear way to keep your energy. It also makes you feel better and supports your thinking.
  3.        Invest time to be with family and friends. Appreciate who you have in your life.

And oh year, there is a fourth thing you need to do to protect your passion. In your reflection time, think about the boundaries you need to set to keep from losing yourself to the business. What do you need to say no to? What are the unacceptables?

You need a clear set of boundaries put on your wall, on your mobile and shared with others around you. You need a strong sense of understanding of what you will give to your business, and what you will not give to your business.

Setting boundaries is something entrepreneurs don’t do well but is the catalyst for keeping your mindset positive. Boundaries are grounded in your values and define your priorities for your life, not just your business.

If you feel you are a dead person walking and your business would succeed if only … stop. Pull the hoodie back and open your eyes. See who and what is around you. Just focus for a minute.

Now that you can see clearly, pull yourself out of the business and set the boundaries that will protect your passion.

Keep you on the path to achieving your vision.

Tyler Batten