The Real Reason You’re Burnt Out
Burnout has reached pandemic proportions in the world of work. Record numbers of employees, business owners and professionals are succumbing to feelings of exhaustion, anxiety and disillusionment, and countless hours of productivity are lost each year due to illnesses related to burnout.
What’s going on? Why has all the progress we’ve made in the way we live and work not translated into less stress and greater well-being?
Extensive research has been done into the field of burnout, most notably by Prof Christina Maslach who developed the widely used Maslach Burnout Inventory. The causes, indicators and ameliorators of burnout have been widely studied. Yet, despite all that we know, we are continuing to work ourselves into the ground.
My theory is that we are burnt out because we are trying to fill a void.
How often have you worked hard towards a goal, achieved it and then wondered what all the fuss was about? Do you ever feel as if you’ve ticked so many of the right boxes, but something is still missing?
That void – the sense of something missing – is the driver of much of the striving in our society. “When I get that job/qualification or earn a certain salary and drive that particular car/live in that neighbourhood, then I’ll be happy.”
The problem is, striving only makes the void greater. In the process of striving we:
- Compromise our values and fall in line with what is expected and accepted.
- Neglect what truly matters – our relationships and our well-being.
And we end up:
- Exhausted from working too hard and too long.
- Feeling unfulfilled because we are chasing other people’s dreams.
- Disillusioned and wondering whether what we do makes a difference.
- Adrift, without a sense of having control over our lives.
Eventually it dawns on us that all that striving isn’t producing the results we want. Sure, we’re getting the accolades and rewards, and we may even feel happy from time to time. But the feeling that “something is missing” lingers. Because what we’re really after is purpose and meaning.
Nothing outside of you is going to fill the void. That’s both a relief and a challenge. It means the striving can stop. But what then? How else are you going to make up for what’s missing?!
Here’s a thought: What if nothing’s missing? What if you are whole and complete as you are right now. Nothing to prove, to achieve or to accomplish. All that’s left is for you to play the game of life to the best of your ability, win or lose.
How do you choose to play your game, knowing that you don’t need anything outside of yourself in order to feel complete?
Let the games begin!
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