Avoid Employee Burnout

By Mark Sincevich

Last night I turned to the community forum section of my local newspaper and there was an article about a former executive who admitted that he had hated the last eight years of his job. However, in his mid-50’s he was able to take early retirement and volunteer for service, first in an African country, and then later in Central America. Some of the friends he made were the most rewarding in his entire life.

I wondered if he was part of our popular culture that works too hard and plays even harder. Perhaps he wanted to seek a deeper meaning in his life. Many people who work very hard to advance in their careers and to accumulate only an income find that they have led a life that just isn’t balanced. I believe that an imbalanced life is also a life that lacks a deep meaning. It isn’t any wonder why the majority of heart attack victims are recently retired men who don’t know what to do with the rest of their lives.

How can we become successful in our careers while at the same time become balanced in our lives? First let me say that ‘achieving balance’ is definitely not a destination; rather, it is a slowly evolving process. Being balanced means being more aware of the different aspects of life and more aware of who you are. This allows us to be more holistic or more of a ‘whole individual.’  A characteristic of a holistic life is living ‘the good life.’  The Italian name for this concept is la dolce Vida. If balance is a journey and not a destination, then how do you start?

I believe that in order to start, you need to think about how to be more balanced every day not at some point in the future. If you want to eat healthier, you wouldn’t start in six months, you would hopefully start slowly now!  Balance is a process of gradual change, not something that is drastic. I feel that one of the best analogies to illustrate this point is through the recently updated USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Food Chart. We know that to achieve a healthy diet, we must eat protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains every day. The same is true with having balance in your life. Except instead of having four food groups, there are four basic areas of life, physical, mental, social and spiritual. If you think about these aspects everyday you will start to incorporate these into your daily life.

Physical: The first area of balance in life is the physical and includes both exercise and diet. One of my best friends told me that he is going to run a marathon every year, and he said that crossing the finish line was one of the best feelings that he ever had in his life!  I asked him to describe his training regimen. He said you would need to start training slowly for the race in April, because your body needs to be in shape for the big event by October. While I believe that completing a marathon just once would be an accomplishment, he wants to use the goal of training for the race every year as a way to stay in shape. I thought that this was an excellent idea especially since you can’t just run a marathon tomorrow. It is a gradual process that builds upon prior small successes.

However, do you think that he would be able to finish the race if he didn’t pay attention to his diet? If we don’t focus on the fuel that powers our body, we will eventually have health problems. When I travel, I always order low-fat, low-cholesterol meals on airplanes. In addition, I pay attention to how I feel after eating. I have noticed that some foods make me feel sluggish and I try to avoid these. Also, sitting on an airplane for many hours makes my muscles feel very cramped. I bring my workout clothing on every business or personal trip to keep myself limber, to keep the excess weight off, and to have a sharp mind. Clearly a key component of balance is frequent exercise and a consistent healthy diet.

Mental: Another area for balance in life is the mental aspect, which involves education and self-improvement. How often have you waited in line at the airport or at the home improvement store and not had anything to read? I make sure that I always have my journal, a book or a magazine with me at all times. I used to waste many hours sitting in doctor’s offices while waiting for my appointment. Now, after I read a good book, I add it to my bookshelf!  Seek out your local bookstore and browse the stacks instead of working out your thumb by channel surfing.

Another way to build knowledge is through employee education benefits. Many companies pay for continuing education as a benefit of employment, yet most employees don’t take advantage of this free benefit. Also, a concept espoused at the National Speaker’s Association is forming a ‘Master Mind Group.’  A Master Mind Group is a collection of people who get together on a regular basis to talk about how to improve their lives or their businesses. If you aren’t a member of a Master Mind Group, take the initiative and start one of your own. Be creative in how you can improve the mental aspect of your life. I remember my grandmother always doing crossword puzzles into her 80’s. She retained a sharp wit and intellect by keeping her mind active.

Social: The next area of a life in balance is paying attention to the social aspect. This includes getting together with your family and friends on a regular basis and providing service to your community. I was invited to many social gatherings over the years and noticed that some people always stuck to a theme for their parties. I decided several years ago to come up with a yearly Wine Tasting. My wife and I pick a country or region of the world and set up 10-12 tasting stations around the house. It is a great way to reconnect with those people whom we haven’t seen in a while and a way to thank our friends for inviting us to their parties. Make sure you stick to the date and time for the party. This commitment to your personal schedule needs to be extended to friends that you see on an individual basis and especially to family members. If you don’t set your own limits on your personal and professional life, then somebody else will set them for you.

How do you give back to your community? A former neighbor has been a loyal Knights of Columbus volunteer for over thirty years. Many times a year, I speak to groups or associations for free in the hopes of inspiring others. Also, I am a member of a non-profit organization that helps to promote the responsible use of our environment. I really like the slogan that I see on some bumper stickers that says, “Think Globally, Act Locally.”  What would you like to do locally? Pick up the telephone and call to volunteer now. It could change your life.

Spiritual: When I mention the word spiritual, what do you think of? If you are like a lot of people, you might think that spiritual has something to do with religion. It may, but I feel that it has a lot more to do with how you get ‘in touch’ with yourself. It is about following and listening to your own path in life. The spiritual area of life needs to be nurtured in order to have balance. Paying attention to the spiritual provides a way to have a deeper meaning in life.

When was the last time you had the opportunity to take time out just for yourself? I asked this question to a friend from college and he said that he takes 10 minutes every morning in the shower for himself. It isn’t enough time to really step-away from one’s responsibilities and explore a new thought or direction. Many people leave one job on a Friday afternoon only to start another one the following Monday. When you take time for yourself, don’t turn on your e-mail, turn off your cell phone and get away from the office.

Writing down your dreams and goals gives them added meaning. As you refer to them, they seem to take on a life of their own. It allows you to really refine and focus on what is really important to you, and a journal allows you to get in touch with yourself more fully. What would you write in your journal to accomplish your dreams? You don’t have to wait until you retire to start living a life full of balance. If you start slowly incorporating the physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects into your life each and every day, you might wind up in a situation where you don’t need to retire. Why would you wait years to do the things you have always wanted to do? Why not begin them now? Living a life in balance is living a life that has deep meaning. I challenge you to begin living your life more fully in balance right now!

Read other articles and learn more about Mark Sincevich.

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