A good friend reached out to me recently asking for help with a problem. My friend is suffering from a rather advanced state of losing her passion in her career and wanted to speak to someone who had no stake in the outcome. I listened and reflected about what she was experiencing. I gave her advice and counsel as you will read below.
The first thing we discussed was her concern that she might be suffering from burnout. She asked if I knew how she could determine if she was burned out or not. Really, I’m not making this up. I laughed out loud and said that we probably wouldn’t have to Google burnout to ascertain if she was in the danger zone for experiencing burnout. She looked puzzled until I said this: “If you are wondering if you are suffering from burnout, it is almost certain that you are indeed suffering from burnout, or at least you have lost your passion for your career. People who are not stressed or feeling stuck, rarely ask themselves if they’re burning out, in my experience.
So she said, “Humor me, will you?” and I said, “OK, let’s figure out if you’re burned out…” With that, we began to go through the checklist that I found online from the Mayo Clinic and lo and behold, she was suffering from burnout.
So, what do you do when you are suffering from burnout at work? We talked about a number of approaches. The most tantalizing is almost always the “I’m sick of this, I need to quit what I’m doing and start over somewhere else.”
There is great danger in pulling the plug too soon on a great position. There is great risk in giving up too soon on a great business and placing all of your future prospects into the unknown. I recognize that doing something new and exciting has a tremendous cachet and allows us to imagine a fresh start and to become truly happy about visiting the other side of the valley. Here’s a reality check for all: “The grass is NOT always greener on the other side of the valley.” Also, recognize that the trip to the other side of the valley does not come easily, no matter how green the grass looks from here. Be careful. Think this through. Don’t run from something, always try to walk towards something instead.
My advice is that it may make better sense to first try to make things more palatable right here in River City before you set out for the other side of the valley. I recommended that my friend look in the mirror and begin to ask herself some good questions to prepare herself for the tough decision that she has coming up. I asked her to consider the following questions for herself:
- Do you really know what you are passionate about and what would energize you at work? If not, think about that and determine it now.
- Do you have a sense about what fills your gas tank during the day? Do you have a good understanding of what reduces your battery to zero quickly? If not, think about that and determine it now.
- Do you have an ability to make some changes at your work so that you can ask for an inspiring change? Could you re-work your current role to create a job that you would love within your current organization thereby benefitting yourself and your company at the same time?
- Do you have the ability to collaborate with someone new to provide you with some new challenge at your work?
- Once you’ve figured out what energizes you and what will allow you to rediscover the passion for your life’s work, you’ll be ready to make a decision.
This woman is a founder of a company, and the current CEO/President, so she has no boss to ask; she needs to just sit down and have a long talk with herself. In the end, my advice for her was this:
- Volunteer for something that will fuel a return to your passion. If you need to do it in your private life, so be it, but if you can wrap it into your company, go for it!
- Find a new challenge that will energize you. Partner with someone less experienced and start working on something REALLY challenging, something that you don’t know how to do, which will force you into your uncomfortable zone.
- Mentor this younger person to help them gain the benefit of your many years of experience. At the same time, ask this young whippersnapper to mentor you on 5 or 10 killer smartphone apps and work hacks that will make you much more productive.
- Above all, get in touch with your learning side. You need to exercise your learning muscles and give them a good flex over the next couple of months to find your drive again.
- Don’t back off and start coasting. Keep working hard, but start working smart. If you haven’t taken a day off in a while, do so. If you haven’t had a vacation in a while, schedule one, and spend the next couple of months looking forward to it and planning to make it special.
In its early days; my friend has just begun to tackle her feeling of burnout. It’s too soon to tell whether our conversation will lead to her finding her moment of Zen anytime soon. I will keep you posted on how this turns out.
Hey, I’d love to hear what you think. Add a comment and let me know what you think about burnout and whether you think my advice is strong, or whether I need to have my head examined. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you our Motivation Best Practices document. Do some damage out there, my friends!