What is Human Design?
Human Design is a spiritual personality classification system that can offer insight into your individual psychology, unique strengths and challenges, and the direction of your life, according to Human Design coach Victoria Jane. It was "channeled" (read: created) in the late '80s by a man named Alan Robert Krakowe who claims to have received the information from a higher power in the midst of a multi-day meditation experience. (Stick with us here.) Not long after, he published a book called The Human Design System under the pseudonym Ra Uru Hu, which is essentially the framework on which the practice is based today.
It's thought to draw intel from four different systems or modalities—astrology, the traditional Chakra system, the Chinese I Ching, and Kabbalah—and according to Jane, there's some quantum physics mixed in there, too. "Based on birth date, time, and place, we all get imprinted with our designs," she says. Similar to an astrological birth chart, a Human Design chart includes a variety of different elements that speak to your unique energetic makeup, but perhaps the most central to your personality is what's called your Human Design type (basically the equivalent to your sun sign in astrology).
"There are five different design types [manifestor, generator, manifesting generator, projector, and reflector], and they describe how our energy works and how it's experienced by others," says Jane. For each design type (you can find yours by entering your birth date and location into a Human Design chart generator like this one), the system then offers strategies for navigating the world "with the most ease and flow," she says.
The concept is complex, Jane admits, but fortunately, you don't have to understand much of what goes into creating the information in order to benefit from its insights. In fact, you can glean a ton of intel from knowing just your type alone.
How does your Human Design type relate to your experience of burnout?
As many of us know all too well, the exhaustion, productivity loss, and decreased motivation that categorizes burnout is typically caused by "performing at a high level until stress and tension, especially from extreme and prolonged physical or mental exertion or an overburdening workload, take their toll," licensed psychologist C.C. Cassell, PsyD, previously told Well+Good. Indeed, burnout is so pervasive that writer Anne Helen Peterson once called it "the millennial condition"—and that was before the stress of the pandemic short-circuited nearly everyone (in any generation) who hadn't already found themselves fried.
Because the system of Human Design seeks to explain, in large part, the different ways we get and use energy, it can offer insight into why you seem to be burning right through your personal resources. Specifically, your Human Design type can shed light on what tendencies and behaviors may be fueling your burnout, which can help you work toward a more easeful state of flow, says Jane. "Knowing your design can give you a sense of not just how your energy works, but also the best way for you to be exchanging energy with the world, so that it doesn't feel like such a slog," she says.
"Knowing your design can give you a sense of... the best way for you to be exchanging energy with the world, so that it doesn't feel like such a slog." —Victoria Jane, Human Design coach
For example, Jane tells me that she's a projector, which is a type that "needs rest even if they're doing their favorite thing in the world," she says. This is not true for generators and manifesting generators, who can more easily power through. But if she tries to similarly push herself without rest, she says she will almost always burn out—no matter how much she likes whatever it is that she's doing.
Below, Jane breaks down how each Human Design type derives and uses energy, the common energetic pitfalls they face, and what they can do to avoid these pitfalls and steer clear of burnout.
How to handle burnout according to your Human Design type
Jane describes manifestors (which is the preferred spelling in Human Design, by the way) as having "big energy," which drives them to initiate change in society. "They're here to do what it is they want to do because they have strong convictions, and in doing so, they'll pave the way for others to follow," she says.
Manifestors tend to create optimally in waves, says Jane. "You'll get a big creative burst, but then you'll need a period of downtime," she says. So, for example, you might work on a book for three months and then take a month off, or collaborate intensely on a project for a period of time and then require some time to completely unplug thereafter. This flow can be challenging to accommodate, say, in a corporate context, which can be one reason manifestors burn out; the structure of modern society just isn't big on extended downtime.
If possible, Jane advises leaning into your peaks or bursts and investing in those urges. But when it comes time for a break, try to take it, and in a way that allows you to be fully disconnected. "The manifestor work cycle is like doing a HIIT workout: When you're on, you're doing burpees, but when you get the one-minute break, you're not trying to still be exercising," she says. "And that's where manifestors can get burnt out—when they try to hold themselves to a certain kind of consistency." What serves them better, she explains, is to do something only when they're super excited about it (and to not force it when they're not).
This will typically require some serious boundary-setting in order to manage the expectations of those around you, Jane adds. And if you still wind up on a trajectory of constant work, try to schedule a full stop as soon as possible—"like a weeklong vacation where you can actually press pause," she says, rather than sporadic single days off that don't offer the same kind of restoration.
Generators are also lit up by doing what they love, but they can typically go and go and go, thanks to a strong internal energy source. "This type is here to create and build what deeply satisfies them," says Jane. "They have this consistent life-force energy, and they can theoretically be okay working longer days—even 12- to 14-hour days. They just really love doing." For example, she says, a generator might decide to build a garden, and then be able to work and work and work on that garden without burning out. "It doesn't feel like work, so that doesn't lead to burnout," she says. "There's an inner fire that's getting tended to."
Still, this doesn't mean generators can't experience burnout. Even though generators have a lot of energy, it's still important not to force yourself to do things that don't light you up, says Jane. "That would be a disservice to yourself because it'll make work really feel like work, whereas it wouldn't if you were doing something that your gut was leading you toward," she says.
Much as the name implies, this type combines elements of the above two. The manifesting generator has that manifestor spark, such that they'll come to a big idea and then be inspired to work quickly to bring it to fruition, says Jane. But also, they'll demonstrate some of the go-go-go drive of the generator, leading them to invest deeply in different ideas as they arise.
As a result, "the manifesting generator has a nonlinear life direction—a sort of piecemeal approach to their energy, where they're pulling together lots of different interests," says Jane. "They might first be into design and then get into photography, and then, they're making a website, so they pick up coding, and finally, they end up running their own business, and they find themselves doing branding for clients, and putting those various interests together."
Where burnout can creep into the picture for this Human Design type is when they find themselves stuck doing the same thing for an extended period of time. "Watch for frustration or procrastination when you have to 'make' yourself do something," says Jane. "This could be something you were excited about a month or even a week ago, but that has since lost your interest. That’s how quickly you can pick things up and move on."
The key thing, then, for manifesting generators is to embrace variety, even if it seems chaotic in the moment, says Jane. "Give yourself the grace to drop what you don’t enjoy anymore, and let go of any worries about sunk costs or pivoting," she adds, "because, for you, whenever you’re engaged in your current passion, your enthusiasm will make up for any 'losses.'"
Projectors are different than the first three types in that they tend to serve more so as a guide to others than as a direct pursuer of their own individual goals. They take in the energy around them, create solutions to problems they identify within their sphere, and then share that intel as guidance for others without necessarily implementing change themselves, says Jane. In turn, their energy is less consistent (or at least, less consistently driven by things they can control) than that of the other types and more indicative of the energy around them.
Like manifestors, projectors are not built for incessant work, says Jane. Again, they don't have access to a constant source of energy within their chart. "For this type, burnout comes from the need to be showing up in a consistent way every day," says Jane. Her best advice is to avoid getting caught up in "keeping up" with others and to remember you have different gifts. "Think more about the impact you can have long-term versus the number of hours you have to work in any given day," she says. And to maximize that impact, really prioritize rest in all its forms, particularly when you need to be fully engaged in a difficult project.
Reflectors are the rarest design type; it's thought that only 1 percent of the population falls into this category. Similar to projectors, they work with other peoples' energy (and have no consistent source of energy of their own). But in their case, they're largely mirroring the energy of their environment in themselves rather than serving as a guiding force.
"Reflectors are able to take in all of the energy around them in a unique way, reminding us of how we are all aligned," says Jane. "So when you're around a reflector, they show you what's best in you, and they can also show you the things you need to do to integrate and become whole."
As a result, reflectors tend to be empaths, too, soaking up feelings and emotions of others like a sponge and sorting through them to come to an understanding of themselves. This can lead quickly to social burnout, which is why it's particularly important for reflectors to manage the amount of time they spend with others, says Jane. Overall, she doesn't recommend going full-recluse because, again, you do source meaningful energy from others—but, at the same time, you also need sufficient alone time to rest and cleanse your energetic palate.
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