From the effort we’ve put into burnout.io and my own burnout experience, I’ve come to the understanding that burnout occurs when one loses meaning in their task. Over time, what motivates us, be it extrinisic or intrinsic motivation, changes — we get families, we get divorced, we earn a lot, we get unemployed, we get terminally sick, whatever it may be—and through these changing times, the things that are important to us throughout times also changes, and the things that entertain our enthusiasm will also change accordingly. I suspect ultimately, that failure to by attentive to a particular task, is a part of our mind—the split brain problem may provide insights here—trying to alert our cognition that this task no longer actually serves us, despite our stubborn ego clinging to the social expectations that it should. It pains me to see people persist through boredom, as that should be the first clue one is in the wrong line of work.
I’ve had to let go of so many social and business constructs over the years that no longer serve me anymore. I’m happy working a few days a month—my expertise affords me this. I’m happy backpacking—my experience affords me this. I’m happy appearing to be a bum to working class society—despite adding value to the world. However, it took me a very long time to go against society and accept the value I offer in being who I wish to be—if I can even say I’ve made it that far.
I do think talking about it certainly helps us develop a vocabulary to identify it, but at the same time, and perhaps equally or more valuable is silence with and within ourselves, where we are not fed any new information, any new demands, any new expectations, and can simply consolidate, organise, process and dismiss those that have been placed on us all through the years—more and more of my peers have been burning out, and finding salvation through week to month long silent retreats. For myself, it was via hitchhiking throughout Australia for a half a year, with only clothes, phone, and sleeping gear—no PC, no work, no email.
I still don’t know where my meaning markers lie today. But I now know where they no longer lie anymore. And I think such an identification is a great step.