The Little Prince on Burnout

Read a good article on burnout entitled Minds Turn to Ash in the Economist’s new “culture, lifestyle, and ideas” magazine, 1843. We coincidentally started watching the The Little Prince, a “Netflix original” animated French film, based on my brother Michael’s recommendation. Interestingly, the main character was raised in an achievement-oriented pre-planned environment just like one of the patients described in the article. I suspect the little prince would see burnout as just another inexplicable foible of adulthood.

I empathize with the malaise described in the article and suffer personally from some of the symptoms especially the indecisiveness. I am inescapably immersed in our achievement oriented culture just like the rest of us. However, despite the seemingly all-consuming demands of work and family I feel that I am actually in a good place in my life. I’ve managed to maintain just enough space for a personal “pool of tranquility” as the article’s author calls it. The demands of family are a helpful counterbalance to spending too much time at the office. Furthermore, my work environment is very good overall.

I definitely feel fortunate but still could benefit from enlarging my “space free from the incessant demands and expectations of the world.” For me, technology is my Achilles heel. I was impressed today that it took me until well after dinner to realize I’d left my phone in the car. Don’t congratulate me just yet — I was still receiving push notifications on my Apple Watch during my inadvertent digital fast.

Speaking of time sinks, I’m writing this while sitting in my son’s room waiting for him to fall asleep. My own little prince demands the book light remain illuminated as he reluctantly reclines in his bed. I appreciate the irony that if he wasn’t so stubborn about going to sleep on his own, I would most likely spend the time on something other than writing and reading. I can enjoy my indentured time for a while but, like the article describes, this time easily “becomes contaminated by stray thoughts of looming deadlines.”