My latest insights on love and courage.
A conscious desire to contribute is to reflect on the question: “How am I making a difference?”
For accomplished professionals, career burnout is often attributed to the fatigue of working too hard for too long. However, this notion is counter to the view that if you are working hard at what you love, it shouldn’t feel like work at all.
Career burnout is not a motivation problem, in the sense that accomplished professionals rarely become unmotivated. Instead, it is most likely that they become NON-motivated.
The difference is that the non-motivated person has an underlying desire to do productive – and meaningful – work. He wants to be motivated, but somehow the environment or circumstances don't provide the foundation for this. An analogy is the precocious child who gets in trouble or acts out in school because she is bored and unchallenged by the material. However, given the right lessons and activities, plus the encouragement of her unique gifts, she will thrive.
What further makes this confusing is the dissonance between the passion a person had for the work he loved early in his career versus the apathy for the same work years later. Having become an expert at one’s profession after years of practice, it’s disconcerting not to love it anymore.
Part of this confusion is due to the structure of schooling. The school system has been developed to train girls and boys for working in the commercial world. The configuration of any typical classroom in rows of desks all facing forward illustrates that the main point of school is conformity and training rather than creativity and learning.
Conformity is best suited for a mechanistic and structured working environment, such as the manufacturing plant. Here training is rightly more valued, as workers foremost need to understand and adhere to process. On the other hand, creativity is essential in environments such as the media, design, the arts, and research and development. Here workers have benefited from the richness of their education – a word that means to “draw out.” Nobody can be trained to be creative, but a person can be educated, which serves to bring forth her creativity.
Other motivators like money, prestige, competition, and the potential for advancement can keep an accomplished professional engaged in his work for many years. However, over time, for many people these things lose their luster. At this point, one comes to the harsh realization that what has lost its luster has also lost its meaning, and the search for that meaning can quickly become paramount.
The accomplished professional in mid-career, who becomes self-aware, desires to be generative. This can express in various ways, such as mentorship, social activism, community building, and by pursuing work that is in alignment with one’s higher purpose. The problem is these expressions are creative ones, and most workplace environments cannot offer these as core to every job function.
Consciously being generative is to reflect on the question: “How am I making a difference?” It often begins with the discomfort of embarking on deeper self-exploration. It then draws upon one’s inherent strengths, the wisdom of lived experience, natural talent, and skills to heed the call of the heart for the pursuit of purposeful work.
When you reflect deeply on the question “How am I making a difference?” you are not merely motivated, but you are now inspired to become part of something greater than your career and yourself.
If you're an exhausted achiever experiencing career burnout and suffering from non-motivation, I invites you to take my online class: “Beyond Professional Burnout.” You’ll emerge feeling energized and eager to pursue your purposeful work. You may also contact me directly to inquire about one-on-one coaching.