Why Social Entrepreneurs are 2 times more likely to do a burnout?

[ Social Entrepreneur ]: n.m. Individual who decided to dedicated his work-life at creating a positive impact in the world – using business mechanism as a force for good.

[ Burnout ]: extreme fatigue caused by over-working. Physical and emotional exhaustion that prevents an individual from performing at work and in his life in general.

  • Why do I care?

Because 2 years ago, during my last year as an employee, I experienced being at the edge of burnout. During a few months, I consulted with a psychologist to help me “keep it together”. One day, she told me “If it continues, it will be necessary for me to stop you from working. This means hospitalization. This means drugs. “. Bam! What a shock at 26 years old!

Long story short, I kept it together (thanks to her!) and managed not to go one step further.. one step too far.

Today, in my social entrepreneur’s life, I know how to set limits not to fall into an over-working path again. And I don’t want anyone to take this path either!

  • Why should you care?

Because Social Entrepreneurs are 2 times more likely to do a burnout. You read well, 2 times!

In my consulting practice, I am surrounded by awesome social entrepreneurs. Ambitious young (and less young ;) ) changemakers who are taking action on a daily bases to make this world a better place. And I know for a fact that it is hard for them (and maybe hard for you, who read this article!), to know the limit. The “step too far”.

Here is why :


Social Entrepreneurs burnout – reason #1

The first reason why social entrepreneurs have higher chances to experience burnout is.. because they are social ENTREPRENEURS.

As entrepreneurs, we take actions on a daily bases. We set goals, plan strategies to achieve them. We push the limits of what has already been done. We give 100% of our energy for the success of our project.

Burnout are frequent for employees under a lot of pressure. Social entrepreneurs do have a tendency to put themselves under a lot of pressure, and thus are exposed to the risk of burnout.

It is easy to forget that, our own energy is the nb1 asset of our social enterprise. And just like a car cannot work without fuel, a social enterprise cannot go far without a healthy, energetic social entrepreneur.

social entrepreneur burnout 2 - creators for good

  • Eat well. Sleep more then when/if you were an employee. Take time off. Often!
  • Make your life as easy as possible, by delegating as many tasks as possible. Protect yourself from the temptation of doing everything by yourself ;)

Question: If you continue to work at the same path, do you think you will still have the same level of energy in 6 months? *

A – yes

B – no

C – but in 6 months it will be different, bla bla bla, because nowdays I have so much on my plate bla bla bla, but later it will be OK because bla bla bla.

* (answers of the “test” at the end of the article!)


Social Entrepreneurs burnout – reason #2

The second reason why social entrepreneurs have higher chances to experience burnout is.. because they are SOCIAL entrepreneurs.

Social entrepreneurs like put others before themselves. We are the opposite of individualists. Our personal values and our professional mission are closely link, and we tend to invest ourselves fully into our work. Passionate is a word that can describe us well.

Some of us even have the tendency to sacrifice themselves for others. And that is a problem!

In airplanes, they always remind us “in case of emergency, place your oxygen mask on yourself before attending to others” (you know, that’s the part of the movie with the little girl helped by her mom ;) ). That is so logic, isn’t it?

Running a social enterprise is NOT like being on an emergency situation in a plane. You don’t see the limit coming. There is no warning, no red light. But if you keep on forgetting yourself for the good of others, you won’t be able to do any good at all.

social entrepreneur burnout 3 - creators for good

  • Be realistic. You cannot attend to everyone, and changing the lives of few people is already a lot.
  • Be efficient : systematize your approach no to over-work. Select the actions that bring the most results / impact, and focus on them. Only them.
  • It is not selfish to put yourself first! It is very pragmatic in fact.

Question: are you satisfied with your “Impact return on Efforts”? *

A – yes

B – no

C – I never look back at my productivity.

* (answers of the “test” at the end of the article!)


My advice : take action!

Don’t wait for the day you’ll “forget to eat”. Don’t wait for the headhaches. Don’t wait for the insomnias. Don’t wait for the negative thoughts, irritability, and paranoia (true !) to affect you.

In other words, don’t wait for your body to stop you from “working-like-crazy”! >> Make sure you put in place a healthy workstyle! That is part of your impact’s sustainability :)

  • Plan – how much you want to work on a weekly basis, and stick to that
  • Schedule – your holidays and long weekends in advance. At least 6 times per year (yes! that often! You are not an employee, you need more rest then them to have enough energy !)
  • Be strategic – about the impact you want to have, the milestones you need to reach, and the selective actions you are going to take. And then, stick to it! Stop working quantitatively, and have a qualitative approach instead.

Answers of the test : 

  • You have a majority of A : keep doing whatever you are doing
  • You have the majority of B: take action! Burnout is no joke, and possibly the worse-case-scenario for your social impact potential.
  • You have a majority of C: I hope this article made you change your mind? A tiny bit?

Final note: more seriously, if you wonder if you might be experiencing a burnout, take a test (for example this one) online. If alarming, run for a professional help.
(if you are french, I can recommend you my former psychologist ;) Just drop me a line in the contact box of this website – she consults by skype so it can be a good fit anywhere you are on this planet ;) )


Your turn:

Tell us in the comments below, is this useful? Have you experienced social entrepreneurs burnout (or the edge of burnout) during your social entrepreneurship journey?

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Solène is the Chief Empowerment Officer of Creators for Good.

She developed a methodology that allows Global Citizen to start and grow their own impactful businesses from anywhere in the world – and with no need for investors or government support.

Learn more!