A Path to Burnout
Why do some hard workers burnout and others are fine?
Over the past two years I’ve been studying, this question. The simplistic view is that burnout is caused by too much work. While this is a factor – no one is burning out the beach – it is not that simple. In our interviews we saw that it was a pattern of behaviours that took people down an unhealthy path.
If I was to prescribe a path to burnout based on our research it would look like this:
1. Have an old story that is driving you
This should be a story that you picked up in your youth about the need to achieve in order to prove your worth. As an adult, find an organization where you are surrounded by other people who hold that same belief. Then compete with those people to achieve and feel worthy!
2. Don’t modulate your effort
Do everything at 100% effort even if it doesn’t require that. Don’t show any discernment or be strategic about this. Have a belief that anything less than 100% is failure.
3. Ignore signals from your body
When you are working relentlessly hard, your body will start to send you signals to take a break and recover. Ignore those. These might start as fatigue and then escalate to headaches or illness. Have a
belief that winners just work through those. Bury the feelings and if that doesn’t work numb them with alcohol.
4. Armour up
Go to a workplace with a toxic-achiever culture and then ‘armour up’ to deal with all the negative emotions. As things get worse over time, don’t make any changes. Just keep adding more armour until you can’t feel anything at all. If that doesn’t work, refer to point 3 above (see alcohol).
5. Do work that is misaligned with your values
The more the work you doing is misaligned with your
values the bigger your chance of burnout. But if you don’t reflect on what really matters to you at your stage or life, then you don’t need to worry about that. As a rule, avoid deep reflection. Just continue on automatic pilot.
6. Assume your 40’s is the same as your 20’s and 30’s
The 40’s are by far the most common time that people burn out. Don’t worry about it. Don’t make any adjustments to your identity,
values or approach to work or life. Just keep everything exactly the same as when you were younger. That was working for you back then. Double down!
7. Don’t have hobbies
Make your identity all about work. You should see anything outside of work as a bit of a waste of time. So don’t bother doing any hobbies. These will only cause you to switch off your work brain. And how are
you going to stay on top of everything if you are not in work mode in the evenings?
That’s it! It’s really not that hard. In fact, if you are ambitious and join the ‘right’ company then you will almost do these things by default. And you’ll be rewarded for it!
The above is one path. In the next post, I’ll share what we learned from people who found a healthy path to high performance. It’s pretty interesting…