You may not be able to define burnout, but you know what it feels like. When you just don’t give a flip anymore. When you drag yourself into work each morning feeling like you’re dragging a two-ton weight behind you. When you find yourself just staring at your computer monitor, completely unable to actually do anything.
Most people experience burnout at one time or another. It’s the result of using all of your energy on what you’re good at and what you can get paid for, with little or no attention to what you love. When simply showing up for work feels harder than tackling Mt. Everest, what can you do to rediscover the passion and sense of challenge you had at the beginning of your career?
Raise the bar.
Very few people are content to do the bare minimum. We’re wired to do our best, to constantly raise the bar on our own performance. If you’re feeling unchallenged, consider raising the bar yourself, rather than waiting on someone else to do it for you.
- Achieve a sales goal that exceeds the one your manager has set for you.
- Reduce turnaround time on customer service requests.
- Reduce your error rate by 15 percent (or 20 percent…or 30).
Even the most mundane task can feel more challenging if you move the goal line. Even if you never tell anyone else, you’ll feel satisfaction at the end of the day just by achieving your own goals.
Ask for new responsibility.
When you get to the point in your career when you can do your job in your sleep, it’s time to ask for something new. If you’re in a small mom-and-pop company, maybe you can ask to take on the challenge of creating the company’s IT system (even if your previous experience is in HR). If you work for a large corporation, ask to jump to a different silo. Try using your experience and knowledge of the company to take a shot at a completely different field. Maybe there’s a new interdisciplinary team starting up – ask to be on it (or even better to head it up).
Get more of what you love.
What do you mostly love your job about? What part of your job do you look forward to, like an incredible dessert at the end of a rather boring meal? If you’re bored with writing but love helping others develop their writing skills, ask if you can take on some editing duties. If you’re sick of illustrating the company magazine but still love creating graphics, ask whether the advertising department could use your skills.
Make it matter.
What if you’re good at what you do, are well-paid, and love the work…but feel like you’re working for the wrong reasons? Maybe you love coming up with innovative IT solutions but are tired of doing it just to sell more widgets. What can you do to channel your skills and passion into something that actually matters? Maybe you could offer your skills to a charity you love. Maybe you could come up with a way your company could contribute to the community (using your skills, of course). Sometimes you don’t have to change what you to do to reignite your passion; you just have to do it for the right reasons.
Nothing could be more frustrating than struggling to get an education and earn your stripes in your career…only to discover that you don’t love it anymore. But finding yourself in that position doesn’t mean you have to quit and start all over; it just means you have to find a way to align three different factors: what you’re good at, what you can get paid for, and what you love.
photo credit: freeimages