In one of my recent People team meetings, we touched on “burn-out” and what that means moving forward. Quite frankly, in America, it truly is a term that seems to just be garnering a level of respect amidst this never-ending set of living conditions we’ve been saddled with. The prolonged stress of trying not to catch COVID, keep productivity up, keep your job, trying not to give your kids away or end up divorcing/leaving your partner are all things that are top of mind for pretty much everyone. The levels of physical, mental and emotional stress are probably staggering, but how would we even try to measure this? Even if we somehow circulated mandatory surveys and saw the statistics split up into pie charts and graphs, what would America do with this information? Nothing.
The American ethos that once “inspired” a nation (rolls eyes) needs to be stricken from the record and rewritten in its entirety. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is being attained by whom exactly? I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer by any means, but really think about it. Unless you are in entertainment, entertainment adjacent, or doing something illegal-ish, where is the liberty? Also, what is a life when you are constantly in survival mode trying not to lose your mind or your assets? Lastly, how in the world are you supposed to actively pursue happiness when you are literally stretching yourself thin, because you don’t have the means to take a vacation or truly take preventative measures to steer clear of burning yourself out? Everyone has a side hustle or two because it takes more than holding down one job to live comfortably.
Burn-out also does not only mean that you are stretched thin at work. It could mean that you never learned how to keep healthy boundaries and you keep saying yes to everything. It could be about all of the smaller things that make up the big things; namely your personal behavior, your actions, or your thoughts. Are you avoiding things? Are you dealing with family or friends who are subtracting value from your life? Burn-out is a chameleon and the world does not do much for those who inherited or somehow ended up with the short end of the stick. Pulling yourself up from your bootstraps is an antiquated and erroneous term, invented by people with enormous, golden-lined parachutes. On the other hand, I know there are people who are thriving and love this structure, simply because it’s been beneficial to them for generations.
The reality is that the way we’ve all been living life is unsustainable. It will inevitably change with Millennials and Gen Z’s coming in to their first and second quarters as actual adults. We may be down by 20 or so points with Gen X & Boomers killing us in the first half, but we are bound to win, even if it’s only by a few buckets. Life as we know it needs an overhaul of astronomical proportions. Here are a few of suggestions that are at top of mind for me:
The rabbit hole is deep and never-ending on the list of things that need to be eradicated to veritably address burn-out. Yes, I said eradicated because it’s that deep. There are many rules and regulations (with loopholes, go figure) that we all abide by because someone one day said so. If that’s the case, we can reconfigure this whole operation. Burn-out is not just a normal thing that we are all experiencing. It is literally ingrained in our daily lives and it has reared its ugly head, as everyone basically has had to pivot or be wildly uncomfortable at some point during 2020 or presently. Non-executive level employees are just now being upfront about needing to take vacations and people are slowly getting better at the idea of actually taking personal days. What we are currently experiencing is a surrogate for a revolution of sorts. Like a moth to a flame, we keep going back to what has been the norm, but it is fated that those who want to stay in that kink, will inescapably be burned by the fire.