Burnout: Understanding It to Overcome It

Everyone is subject to burning out. It comes when you no long we feel the satisfaction from a job well done. The lack of satisfaction could be driven by a lack of appreciation or unresolved conflicts at work. I’m the cause, you can find the solution.

As I’ve been struggling with writer’s block and an emotional fog in the past couple weeks, the easy phrase is “I’m a bit burnt out.” But, this isn’t the case since they aren’t interchangeable terms.

What you do when you are burnt out isn’t the same as with writer’s block or emotional fog. Burnout won’t be fixed by an extra hour at the gym or an indulgent massage. Burnout needs to be fixed by rediscovering your passion. What did you love about your career, your life before?

Defining Burnout

Burnout comes from losing the verve to do what you once did. It often happens when you have been in the same position for an extended period of time and no longer feel fulfilled or appreciated for what you do. You show up and life at work just doesn’t feel natural or good anymore.

Maybe you take a vacation to clear your head but fall right back into the same doldrums you felt before you left. Chances are you spend a good part of your time daydreaming about not doing what you have to do to get the job done. Your heart is no longer in the game and it hurts to think that things have come to this: sitting in a seat you worked hard to get to that no longer feels comfortable.

Pinpointing Life Went Awry

Chances are, if you can’t identify what you loved, you’ll have a hard time rediscovering passion. The reason is the excitement you felt before had to do with mastering a new skill or job duty. Once mastered, there is no driving force for fulfillment. Ultimately, we all get a high when conquering new things and we get a sense of satisfaction from others’ acknowledgments of our growth.

illustration of thumbtack

Finding Fulfillment

I think this is where midlife crisis happens for most. You spend years excelling at what others made you feel you were good at. Maybe you weren’t passionate about it but let’s face it, when we are young, few of us have a real sense of what provides fulfillment for long-term satisfaction. We simply don’t have the time perspective of life while we are chasing bigger paychecks, promotions and accolades.

At a certain point, this can catch up with us emotionally. This is where burnout leaves you wondering:

  • What am I doing with my life?
  • Why am I trying to accomplish?
  • Does anyone care what I do?
  • Is this all there really left?
  • Should I have worked less or done something different?

Connecting the Dots to Fulfillment

The road back from burnout doesn’t have to be the 405 freeway in Santa Monica between 7 and 9 am, bumper-to-bumper standstill. In fact, overcoming burnout doesn’t mean you need to totally change gears from what you are doing. Remember, the goal is to find passion, fulfillment and feel fulfilled with your career choices. That doesn’t mean things will be easy – life never is.

Here are some tips to recovering from burnout:

  1. Dive headfirst into a passion project: even if it has nothing to do with your daily work tasks. A passion project sparks the creative juices and feeds your internal energy cycles. This makes life in the burning section more enjoyable.
  2. Say “No,” to extras: Psychologist Abraham Maslow explained that for a person to be self-actualized and fulfilled, they must be able to express themselves. Don’t start screaming like a looney in Starbucks, but feel free to stop doing all those favors and extra tasks when asked. You’ll feel empowered and more in control.
  3. Outsource what you can: think about hiring a housekeeper to clean the house or find the resources to hire an assistant. Taking the tasks you hate off your daily plate will do a lot to free up needed emotional energy and creative juices.
  4. Become a mentor: burnout may seem like the worst time to decide to mentor someone but it actually helps you remember what it was like when you were starting. By inspiring others, you become inspired by their curiosity, tenacity and success.

Personal Interactions

The feelings of burnout are heavily influenced by those in our lives. Take a look around and inventory who is a positive influence in your life and who is a Debbie-Downer. We all need friends who let us vent from time-to-time and we need to be the ear for them when they need us. Let’s face it, though, there are some people who are always negative. Spend less time with them.

cartoon of man with papers flying

Learn to Work Smarter

Remember that the path to success is paved in hard work but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need balance. Working harder isn’t the answer. In fact, it is often part of the problem. Don’t be afraid to step back and away from your success path so you can clearly see where you are going, what obstacles there are, and develop a path to overcome them. Someone lost in the woods needs to find a vantage point to see over the tree line. Find your vantage point rather than just walking in circles at a faster pace.

The New Work Mode

I belong to a lot of entrepreneur groups and see posts, articles and memes all the time that success is about the hustle. There is almost this sense of “entrepreneur shaming” that if you aren’t working Sunday, you aren’t an entrepreneur. I tend to disagree with this as a rule for all to follow for success. Recharging is just as important.

Remember that success happens when you align your goals to your priorities. If you’re working Sunday because you think that is what you need to do in order to be successful and miss your kid’s baseball game in the process, you are creating internal conflict. This will lead to getting stuck on your path and eventual burnout.

women floating with umbrella

Getting Back to Living

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill to overcoming burnout. It is different for every person because what makes us feel fulfilled and appreciated is unique in each of us. Take some selfish time and think about what it is you really want. These are usually found in our daydreams or moments when we catch ourselves wondering how someone else got “X” in their life.

Be selfish and start to dream again. Think big and use those ideas to plan and move you closer to them. Burnout isn’t a lifelong sentence of misery if you don’t want it to be.