Thursday, September 08, 2005

Burnout and Purpose Article

In our society, something called burnout is a common phenomenon. Most of us wrongfully assume that burnout results from working too much, too long, or too hard. This isn’t true.

Burnout comes not from a lack of time, but from a lack of purpose.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re on fire with enthusiasm for something you want to accomplish, you’re able to do it ceaselessly for hours or days at a time? The volume of work you can accomplish makes those regular work duties pale by comparison. Yet you experience no burnout. Burnout has nothing to do with being too busy. If you want to avoid experiencing burnout, all you need to do is to reclaim your sense of purpose. You need motivation. Simply put, motivation is knowing why you’re doing something. If you have a compelling enough “why,” the “how” will take care of itself, and you’ll discover inner resources you never knew you possessed, generating unexpected energy, enthusiasm, and ideas which will lead you towards your goals.

In all things in life and pertaining to your life itself, know your purpose. Know why you’re doing what you’re doing every moment of the day. Ask yourself frequently, “Why am I doing this?” Once you get an answer, focus on that answer while you go about accomplishing the task in front of you. Look as deeply as you can into that question until the answers you come to are satisfying and compelling. Make it an inner dialogue.

For example, as a student, you might find yourself experiencing burnout while doing a lot of homework. You would then ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Your initial response might be “My parents are making me do it.” Not very satisfying or helpful as an answer. But you would then ask yourself other questions such as “Why am I listening to them?” in which case you might respond, “To earn their respect.” “To keep peace in my home.” “Because they know that by doing well in school, I’ll have a better life, with more options.” That might be enough to satisfy you and motivate your continued action. If not, keep asking more questions. Find the link between what you’re doing and what you ultimately want. Once you can identify the ways in which your current actions impact your desired outcome, the job suddenly becomes easier.

Having a sense of purpose for your life in general is a very helpful tool for remaining happy and motivated. To understand your life purpose, ask yourself: Why am I here? What do I have to contribute to the world? Where will my influence be felt? What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? For what would I like to be known? Who do I want to be like? When am I the happiest?

Once you’ve discovered your life purpose, ask yourself if your day-to-day activities support that purpose. Are you on purpose? Are you using your time wisely to produce the results you want in life? If not, perhaps you should rethink the way you spend your time.

Several years ago, as a chiropractic physician, I realized that I was discontent. I was bored and anxious much of the day, and, although I was outwardly successful, I felt no joy from my success. In fact, I felt trapped. I’d arrive in my office early and immediately begin fantasizing about the end of the day. Everything seemed difficult and time-consuming. I was experiencing burnout. For a time, I tried to solve my difficulties by changing my schedule, limiting my workload. But none of my strategies made a lasting impact on my life.

Then I tried the exercise I’ve described above. Asking myself questions about what I enjoyed, what I felt was my unique contribution to the world, when I felt most alive, it became clear that my joy was in traveling, lecturing, and entertaining large groups of people. I identified my life purpose as being to educate, entertain and inspire groups of people, and to do it in an ever changing environment, incorporating travel and interaction with unique, unusual people. Clearly, the life I was living offered none of the attributes I felt were necessary for my purpose. I resolved immediately to change my life, to find an outlet for my skills and talents, and to contribute what I felt I was meant to contribute to the world in my own unique way.

Every one of us has something within us which sets us apart from all other people on this planet. Your special contribution is waiting to be made. Not only should you not feel guilty about designing your life to express that unique gift, you should feel guilty if you’re not doing that. If you fail to blossom into the person you were put on the planet to be, you’re ripping the world off. You’re withholding something the rest of us may need. Take the time to discover your purpose, and begin to live your life in support of that purpose. The rest of us are waiting for your gift.


Blogger Penny C. Sansevieri said...

Steve what a great article! Very on point and helpful - thanks! Penny

4:28 PM  
Blogger health scout said...

Oh, no! I accidentally flagged this blog. I am trying to find out how to remove the flag.

It is a great blog. There is NOTHING objectional in it.

6:01 AM  

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