Working Hard Doesn’t Have to Mean Burnout

I often write about how you can succeed by working your butt off to be the most reliable, consistent, effective person in whatever work setting you find yourself.  I talk about the need to be so good and so reliable that those you work with never have to worry about you.  I had an interesting response from a reader who said that these ideas seemed to lay the groundwork for suffering a terrible work environment.  If all your focus is on working hard and making sure you don’t cause stress to your colleagues, you might end up burned out and unhappy.

It’s a fair criticism because I don’t always make explicit an assumption that precedes the work hard advice: don’t stay someplace that sucks.

Don’t do things that make you dead inside.  Don’t stay anywhere – home, school, job, relationship – where you feel devalued or depressed every day.  Don’t settle or compromise.  You may not know what makes you come alive, and that’s OK, but as soon as you find things that make you die, quit.  Exit.  Leave.

Your professional life is too valuable to find some kind of middle ground or happy medium where you kind of like it OK, therefore you kind of sort of do a decent job.  No.  If you’re not kicking ass and being your best self day in and day out, why be there at all?  If grinding it out at 100% results in your being abused or burned out, the solution is not to work less hard, it’s to find new work.

If you’re unhappy, slacking off a bit more will not improve the root problem.  If doing your best work doesn’t bring you joy, you need to find work that does.

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