Burnout happens when your job is misaligned with your purpose

I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised by the recent statistic that six out of every 10 Americans are experiencing burnout. What is alarming is the rate at which younger people are already burned out.

An article in Forbes reported that 65% of millennials and 71% of the younger Gen Z workers say they are in a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion — and their careers are just getting started.

The biggest culprits to job burnout are often heavy workload, unrealistic expectations — like having to be available for work 24×7 — and a poor work/life balance. But, Forbes said misalignment between a job and purpose is overlooked as an important cause.

I remember feeling that in my 30s working for a non-profit organization where I was drawn into one fundraiser after another after another. As a writer and content creator, begging for money from companies and people was a real chore for me.

As much as I believed in the mission, the tasks required of me were too stressful and too demanding. I was in a constant state of pressure to perform and meet the fundraising goals.

Forbes noted that type of “misalignment burnout” leads to a to a disconnect between our true selves and professional identity. Was I a talented writer or a professional fundraiser? After a few years, I couldn’t cut it any more. The pace of the work combined with the idea my effort was never enough really took its toll.

For me, it happened years before I turned 50. But, for many others, I think 50 is the tipping point when people start to realize the ladder they were climbing was on the wrong wall and and led to a dead end, or they just got burned out with the repetitive nature of important, but unessential work.

The Journal of Managerial Psychology found that when employees feel like they fit well with their organization and their specific role, then they’re less likely to experience burnout.

The journal cited an example of an introvert being required to network with others and building relationships all day. After years of pretending to be extroverted, it can lead to fatigue.

I think that’s what’s really behind the tendency of people in their 50s to leave jobs — even well-paying jobs — in order to purse other opportunities that may not pay as much, but deliver a better reward through active pursuit of purpose.

I think of people like Steve Hurwitz, who walked away from a lucrative career in information technology in order to fix recreation vehicles on a part-time basis. The switch gave him more control over his time and his income. He could still make money needed to support himself, but he had time do those things which really energized him.

According to Forbes, the key to overcoming misalignment burnout rests in two actions. They are:

  • Unplugging and reconnecting with yourself — That’s done by being truthful and releasing all expectations for your life and career. You can redefine your life and priorities by letting go and keeping your thoughts grounded.
  • Embracing your nature and your purpose — That requires defining your priorities and replacing helplessness with clarity to identify a map to your purpose and passion. Start by looking at where you are today, and where you want to be in the future. Then determine the choices you need to make to achieve that objective.

For me, that meant coming to the realization that my life purpose had to involve helping others in some way. Instinctively, I knew there was a specific purpose that needed my natural talent, learned skills and unique life experiences.

Fortunately, I found that by helping other men and women over 50 to realize their lives still have purpose and they can make an impact which truly gives them energy. If you’d like help finding that type of purpose for your life, just reach out to me via the Forward From 50 contact page. I’d be happy to chat.

Sometimes, it takes an outside perspective to turn on the light in order to see a different path.