Burning Out Helped Me Focus
Burnouts have a negative connotation and it’s easy to understand why. The definition of a burnout explains it perfectly. According to HelpGuide:
“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.”
I’m not disagreeing with that definition at all, but I am saying that not everything about burning out is negative. In my case, there was an interesting, positive outcome that came from me burning out of my original profession: I was able to focus on what really mattered in my life.
To be clear, burning out isn’t fun.
If you can avoid burning out to learn the same lesson I did, I’d highly recommend it. The process of burning out is not pleasant. Things that once made you happy lose your interest and the days just repeat; happiness is harder to come by; you tend to have less patience with everything in your life.
My burnout came out of my career in architecture. For those who aren’t as familiar with the profession, architecture is a career full of deadlines and late nights. We’re taught that we make the sacrifices we make for the love of the project and design. Don’t fall for it. At some point, you’re probably going to find yourself facing the deadline that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.
For me, it came from a flurry of deadlines when things were busy and hectic at the firm. We were all staying late, and there was an unsaid mentality that the later you stayed, the more committed you were to the team. I remember having a performance review and one of my reviewers explained that I didn’t seem to be a team player anymore, because I was leaving on time. What makes me laugh about this memory is my reason for leaving on time:
I had my newborn at home. My wife and I had our first baby, and I wanted to minimize the time spent away from our baby.
I was already stretched thin from learning the ropes of being a first time parent. When you add the pressure of the deadlines, then having a negative review, because I wanted to spend my time with my family instead of work you can see why I burned out. My burnout involved me going through the motions at work, a lack of patience that followed me everywhere, and having an apathetic view of everything. It wasn’t the normal me.
Burning out isn’t the end.
As I burned out, I did have some time to think of what I really wanted out of my career. I no longer had the energy or the patience to put up with an environment that didn’t appreciate my time at home. I wanted something that would allow me to spend as much time with my family as I could. When you think about it, time can’t be purchased by anyone. We all have the same 24 hours in a day to work with.
If I didn’t burnout, I might still be in the same place I was, doing the same things I was doing. To every negative, there’s a positive and fortunately, my burnout led me in the right direction. Best of luck on your travels through life, and try to make the most of everything that comes your way.