So, what’s the point of all this?
The reason behind my journal entries and why I share them with you is because first, I am documenting my efforts to grow as a person. I want to note my changes and openly discuss what works and what hasn’t. But more, I want to write about life in a relatable way with hopes that my brand of information is helpful to others. Even in spite of all our differences; there is a commonality we share. We are all here, living, learning and we are all moving along this great big conveyor belt, which I choose to call Project Earth.
We are all looking for the easier, faster way, but in most cases, the only way to get to something is to go through it. This means in spite of all the quick fixes and remedies or in spite of all the programs and the packaging we see to get rich quick, learn faster, be better or what have you—the more we try, the more we learn that nothing teaches us quite like experience. Then again, even experience can lead us to the wrong lessons.
By the date of this publication, I will have been part of the working world for more than half of my life. And, by the date of this publication, I will have commuted to work more than 15,000 times. I have certainly worked more than the traditional 216 working days during the year. My jobs have changed the same as my intentions have changed. I have grown from a young man and evolved into the man I am now, which, in hindsight; I am older in some ways and younger in others. I have learned and grown and still, I have far more to learn and more to grow as well. My point here is specifically geared towards finding a sense of inner balance, happiness, or dare I say it; I want to help find enjoyment in our daily work life.
As I see it, I am part of this big machine and so are you. As a matter of fact, we are all part of this big experiment that I call Project Earth. I have met some of the best people the world has to offer. Safe to say that in some regards, I have met some of the worst too. I have worked with great leaders and bad bosses. I’ve worked in places that were not good matches for me. And to be clear; first and foremost, I own my share of this. I was young and needed to grow. I needed to learn better ways to adjust my personality. I had to learn to navigate away from faulty relationships. At times, I had to understand that my involvement was unnecessary. I found that sometimes saying nothing is the best thing to say. Ego is a killer by the way. And ego is the unraveling string that we pull on with hopes it will break off.
What I would like to offer here is a level of simple honesty. I am going to discuss one of my mismatched placements where fortunately, I only worked for a short amount of time before I left the company.
My spirit was gone. I say this because I can remember enduring the long commute into work and arriving at my place of business. While standing outside of the office building, I looked up at the skyscraper with a sense of personal defeat. Rather than go inside, I called in sick. My workplace stress and fears became insurmountable. I could not sleep through the night. My Sundays were literally ruined because the closer I came to Sunday night, the more I realized Monday morning was on its way.
I struggled with chronic stress and the constant ideas of ineffectiveness. I had resentments, anxiety and depression. I had this deep pit in my stomach. I was afraid of being disliked and worse, I was afraid of the shame-based ideas that this was all my fault.
All of my thinking was due to the dreadful ideas of having to walk through the doorway and into an office where I was not sure what was coming. I didn’t know what would happen or whose neck would be on the chopping block. In a word, I had already checked-out. My performance was weak and growing weaker. There were slight glimmers of good times and happiness but these were only spurts and short-lived moments.
As a reference, I will go back to the chart of family dysfunction; I was the scapegoat and the lost child, which was fine for my other coworkers. To them, this was perfect because as long as I was in the hot seat, everyone else was left alone. I fit in this piece of office politics, which is similar to the divisions of favor and popularity. And to be clear; I was at the end of my rope. I couldn’t take it anymore.
By the way, burnout in the workplace is a legitimate medical syndrome. This is real and more accurately, this was me for most of my life. I found myself lost in thoughts, wishing there was a better way and hoping that something would change. I hoped that someone was going to call me with the next great opportunity; however, I never thought to create opportunities for myself.
Not at all!
While stuck in the symptoms of my burnout, I took on the emotions of my thinking. I became the sum of my fears and more, I became the author of my self-fulfilled prophecies. This happened because I lived in the anxiety of my problems. I hoped for solutions but I never considered creating solutions for myself. Moreover, I was wrapped in the ideas of acceptance and rejective thinking. I lost to myself; I lost to my thoughts and to the end results of my emotions. I became the director of tragic assumptions that played out like movies inside of my head. I relived conversations and rehearsed them in my mind, which prewired me for arguments that did not need to happen.
This was me. This was painfully real; and yet, there was no relief in sight. I was burned out and degraded. I wanted an answer. I wanted help. But more, I wanted a new opportunity but I was afraid of the measures I’d have to take. I was worried that my assumptions about myself were true and that I could not meet the opportunities in a good working manner.
The one lesson I have learned is the more I focus on my problems, the bigger the problems become. In the case of me and my burnout, I tried to satisfy my supervisor by overcompensating. But unfortunately, in my nervous efforts to please and improve my standing, I found myself making rookie errors and mistakes in judgment. I was constantly worried about what people thought of me. I was afraid of rejection from my coworkers whom, on some occasions, I overheard laughing about my reprimands. I became a spoke in a wheel that benefited them because so long as it was me, it wasn’t them. More importantly, I was stuck in the emotional quicksand of working at a place that was not a good fit.
I had to get out.
My purpose behind these entries is to both document and offer a relatable idea for people who find themselves caught in the medical syndrome of workplace burnout so they can realize there is a way out of this. There are ways to improve; however, as I mentioned before—the only way to it is through it.
When I entered a program of recovery, I was told that this was a simple program for complicated people. I was told to keep it simple, work the steps and focus on progress not perfection. There was a man who I met. He was as kind as anyone could imagine. He was older and white haired. As a means to honor my friend’s anonymity, I will only refer to him as Bernie. And no, his real name was not Bernie.
I was lost and angry at the time. I was down on myself and distant from what seemed like the rest of the world. No matter how hard I tried and no matter what I did, nothing seemed to work for me. My job was failing and so was I. My rate of depressive thinking was unbearable and the anxiety seemed unstoppable. I was anxious. I wanted to quit. I was unhappy but more than anything, I didn’t know what to do.
Bernie was never someone who preached nor did he ever impose his religious beliefs. However, there was something Bernie taught me which I later discovered was a quote from St. Francis of Assisi. Bernie asked if he could offer me an idea because it was clear that I was overwhelmed. I recall assuming Bernie was going to give me one of those snarky little slogans that people offer. But no. Bernie was more understanding than I had expected.
He told me something that was helpful to him.
Bernie told me, “Start by doing what’s necessary. Then do what’s possible.”
“And breathe,” he told me.
“Breathing is a good thing to do.”
We are not always going to like our position. We are not always going to like the information we are given. There is no more good news or bad news. There is only information; in which case, we can use the information to define what’s necessary and what’s possible. Not everything fits in this world. Not every day is going to be good but before we allow ourselves to be engulfed by the dead-end feelings of dead-end jobs or live in a dead-end life, we have to start by doing what’s necessary. Then do what’s possible and suddenly, we’re doing the impossible.