By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I started out young and idealistic, but I am finding I have had so many disappointments that I just don't care about much anyone. How do you keep caring about your job when retirement is far away and you are burned out?
A. You keep caring about your job by knowing that a career is a lot like a long-term marriage. You may fall in and out of love with your partner, but your commitment to the marriage will keep you working at it even when you don't feel like it. When you keep doing what you need to do, eventually your appreciation for your partner returns.
When you are burned out on your career, start out by not criticizing yourself for feeling flat. In a long work history, I can guarantee your passion for your work will wax and wane. Especially if you've faced a series of setbacks that have been disappointing and frustrating.
Take a lesson from nature when it comes to managing your career. No ocean (worth its salt) has a constantly incoming tide. The ocean wisely knows there are cycles of incoming water and then a cycle of outgoing water. To expect our careers to only benefit from a rising tide is unrealistic and a set-up for self-criticism.
Your career right now is clearly on an outgoing tide. Figure this is nature's way of telling you to rest, focus more on your personal life (family, health, hobbies), and take a break from pouring so much energy into your job. Surprisingly, most of my clients discover during these times that they can put only 75 percent of their energy into their job and still perform adequately at work.
Your goal in your workplace is adequacy not greatness. Our business culture so overemphasizes peak performance that most of us feel that if we can't function at 120 percent all the times, we are seriously slackers.
The truth is that functioning at 120 percent is something no human being is doing. Although I'll admit I've seen some charismatic business people who "market" themselves as machines who never sleep, vacation or take a breath. Don't believe the marketing of these people and see yourself as falling short.
Most of my clients tell me that when the tide of their career is going out, they first judge themselves, then they fight it, and finally they go with the tide and discover they needed a break.
You will be able to return to your daily grind with more life balance, creativity and perspective if you don't fight your gut instinct that you are burned out. Being burned out is not a permanent state if you will mimic nature in your response to this workplace crisis.
If you take what is probably a much-deserved mental break from caring so much about work, you'll come back refreshed and ready to tackle your job with new enthusiasm. If despite the outgoing tide, you still have no interest in your current job, then, like a bad marriage, you and your job may be a bad match. Take heart in knowing that some of the best marriages and career matches occur late in life.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This was printed in the September 23, 2012 - October 6, 2012 Edition