Lessons From the Burnout Syndrome

Some time ago I read an article titled Burned Out in Scientific American Mind June/July 2006 edition. The article explained about how people can be so obsessed with their work until they collapse by exhaustion. These people measure their self-worth only by their achievement in their job in such a way that they neglect other things like social life, family, eating and sleeping. They just work, work and work. They just want to achieve as high achievement as possible.

As the article describes, in the end not only many of them collapse by exhaustion, they also feel worthless. Since they are so obsessed by their job, failures – which are actually very common – can make them feel that they are nothing.

It’s very bad, right ? Reading this article reminds me how important it is to maintain balance in our life. As I’ve written in Production vs Production Capability, one such balance is between our production and production capability. While production is important, we must pay equal attention to production capability. People who get burned out are those who just focus on production but neglect production capability. They just want to produce more, more, and more, but never stop to see whether or not they can sustain such production for long time.

To compare with engines, you know that engines must periodically have maintenance time to ensure that they can work for long time. If you just use the engine all the time without maintenance, they may seem to yield more in the beginning, but at the end it will get broken.

The same thing applies to our life. “Maintenance service” is important. We need things like rest, sleep, exercise, hanging out with friends, and vacation. Of course it takes resources like time and money, but it will ensure that we can always be productive in the long run. Besides, we will also live a happy life. Who don’t want to have a happy life, anyway ?