REFLECTION: I’ve been thinking a lot about burnout in recent days. Not because I’m feeling burned out myself, although I have been there more than once in the past. But rather because I’ve been digging back through results of the Overload and Overwhelm survey that I conducted not too long ago. As I dip into the responses to the questions I am struck again by the serious impact of O & O on health and well-being.
Over and over again, people mention the downward spiral triggered by too many expectations and too few resources. They describe the hopeless feelings associated with not being able to see – much less envision – a light at the end of those endless tunnels of activity. And much of what they are doing seems pointless.
Still I’m hopeful. While meltdowns may be imminent, they are not inevitable.
One of the things I have noted over the years, is that burnout is not always related to the number of hours worked. Although long hours can be an indicator of problems ahead.
Meltdowns and burnout are just as often connected to feelings of hopelessness and pointlessness. It’s like we’ve lost track of any meaning that might once have been associated with the activities that fill our days. And so while we invest more and more energy we experience fewer and fewer returns on that investment.
And therein lies one of the main challenges: staying connected to the reasons why we’re doing these things in the first place.
ACTION: The next time you find yourself or someone else swirling towards burnout or meltdown, see if you can dig deep to reconnect with the meaning and point of the activities at the core of your days.
Think back to earlier times in your career, and try to remember what you found so engaging about the work in the first place.
Pinpoint why these day to day activities once mattered to you and to those you serve.
Ask others who know you well what your everyday contributions mean to them.
Pay attention to the things that clients, colleagues and family appreciate. Take note of how what you do contributes to their success or well-being.
In short, see if you can rediscover the meaning in the answers to these three basic questions: Why this? Why me? Why now?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “It is not how busy you are, but why you are busy – the bee is praised, the mosquito is swatted.” – Marie O’Conner
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: Need some more inspiration about tapping into purpose? Check out Richard Leider’s work on discovering the power of purpose. The website’s On Purpose Journal section features many interesting articles.
READERS WRITE: In response to last week’s message, Go For The Grin, Pause reader ED writes: When I left to spend a year teaching English in Japan, a friend gave me a journal with this quote on it: ‘Everyone smiles in the same language.’ I found it to be so very true. The streets & trains that I frequented were full of tired looking people and smiles were seldom seen, but I made a point of smiling at people. More often than not they responded in kind. I didn’t speak their language but with the flash of a smile, something was communicated.