Burnt out? Check your pilot light.

Exhausted? Unable to concentrate? Struggling to get motivated? These are classic signs of burnout. The vision is that of an engine that has been running too fast too long and finally goes up in smoke, leaving the car to sputter to the side of the road. But a better image may be of a pilot light that has flickered out. If you’re feeling burnt out the problem may not be that you’re having to put too much into what you do, but rather that you’re not getting enough out of it.

For several years I was on a committee at work that was very active and productive. It was not part of my regular job, so it had a volunteer nature to it. It required extra time and energy on my part. After the committee ended I noticed something unexpected. I felt burnt out. Why, I wondered, would I feel burnt out now when I have more time available and not back when I was in the thick of it with that committee?

It was because I was getting more out of being on that committee than I was putting into it. It allowed me to act upon values that are important to me. It challenged my ways of thinking. I learned about myself, and about how people relate in a corporate environment. It was hard work but I grew from it.

If you’re feeling burnt out, take a break, at least for a moment. Don’t just take a break to rest and let the ashes cool. But take a break to check your pilot light. Take time to simply be and to think. Who am I? What am I doing and why am I doing it? How does what I’m doing fit with who I am? Is it in alignment with who I am, does it express who I am? In doing what I am doing am I enriched by it? Am I growing?

Is there something I am doing that I should stop doing, because it demands much of me but doesn’t really fit with who I am? Is there something I am doing, perhaps something I have to do, that I just need to better understand why I am doing it? And here is a really odd question to be asking yourself in a time of burnout, is there something I am not doing that I should be doing, something rewarding and enriching that would keep my pilot light going?

Keep a light on!

“Stress is not the enemy. A lack of refueling and renewing and recovery against the stress you face every day at work is really what depletes your resources & causes you to lose your productivity, to lose your momentum, to lose your motivation, to lose your energy.” Robin Sharma

Image: Suvro Datta / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2 comments on “Burnt out? Check your pilot light.

  1. Mark says:

    Just the message I need right now! Thank you and God bless.

  2. Michael A says:

    This recalls to mind something David Whyte wrote in Crossing the Unknown Sea.

    [Recounting a conversation with a trusted advisor … ]
    ‘You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?’ [my friend asked.]
    ‘The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest,’ I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. ‘What is it, then?’
    ‘The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.’ … ‘You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don’t have to tell you.’

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