I met a colleague once who confided in me there was one point in his life when he had become completely and hopelessly burned out. Not only had he contemplated quitting his career in medicine, he had even contemplated the ultimate bow out – suicide. He wasn’t just burned out over his job, he had become burned out on living.
How does someone get to a point such as this, that it is better to die than to go on living because of one’s feelings, something which can be changed? He had hit all three of the hallmarks of burnout – emotional exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy. One should never underestimate the effects of these powerful negative forces on the human psyche.
He came to feel utterly used up, spent, that he had nothing left to give to anyone. He had become overly pessimistic and distrusting of people, holding everyone around him in contempt. He felt ineffectual in everything he did, like a complete failure in his profession and in life.
Anybody who knew him would have been dismayed over hearing this. Here was a professional, at the pinnacle of his career with seemingly everything in the world going for him. He possessed great intelligence. He had a great job, a loving family, status in the community, economic stability, and people liked him.
None of that mattered to him because of how he was feeling. He was trying his best to hide his true feelings because he was ashamed of them. He felt he should be able to handle anything, much like most men, much like most physicians.
His work environment was the source of his discontent, not his career. Terrible mismatches had been created between the job he was asked to do and his own internal values. This is what led to his burnout.
One day, out of desperation, he quit his job. He said it was either quit or put a gun to my head and pull the trigger. He walked out after leaving a two word note on his desk. “I quit!” Quitting a job where you are feeling burned out isn’t the only option available. Sometimes the work environment can be changed to alleviate burnout. In his case, the circumstances of his employment wouldn’t allow for the changes necessary for him to stay. So, he left.
He took time off and spent some of it traveling. He began to meditate and see to his other personal needs – physical, emotional, spiritual. This served to improve and support his overall mental status. He started feeling better. Much better.
He got back in touch with his core values. Although he loved his profession, he vowed never again to put his values in jeopardy over a job. He took responsibility for what he could do to change the way he felt. He took a new job. One that was more closely aligned with his core values. Where once he was merely surviving he was now thriving.
Today, if you were to ask him how he feels, he would most likely say something like, “On top of the world” because that is honesty how he feels these days. He let his old job change him thinking he could adapt. He couldn’t. When he changed his work environment, he changed the way he felt about himself, his profession, his colleagues, his family, his patients, the world and life.
He made a decision to become the captain of his own ship. Tragically, too many people who are burning out, or burned out, labor on under the notion nothing can change. Well, feelings can and do change. Sometimes you just have to hit restart.
Do you feel your core values are being honored in life right now? Do you know your top five core values? If not, there is a Core Values Inventory (CVI) assessment available absolutely free under the FREE STUFF tab at the top of this page. Or, simply sign up in the sidebar in the upper right of this page to instantly download the CVI and other freebies you may find useful.