The tussle between passion and obligation, between what sets our soul on fire and what 'need' to do, is a constant in the world of innovation and business. This is my story — one that offers key lessons on avoiding burnout, being true to oneself, and, ultimately, designing a life that leads to genuine happiness and success.
Not long ago, I found myself grappling with a feeling many ambitious professionals can relate to: burnout. The symptoms weren't just fatigue or a fading passion. I was mentally and emotionally stretched thin, drowning in an ocean of roles, responsibilities, and an ever-lengthening workday.
Statistically speaking, my experience was far from unique. A 2018 Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. It's a pandemic within a world that glorifies busyness.
So, what led to this state? A cocktail of spreading myself too thin, long hours, and disconnecting from my true passion: deep AI and tech research. I had gradually shifted from what I loved to multiple tasks I believed I had to do, often acting in roles that didn't resonate with my strengths or identity.
This realization was an epiphany. It was time to reclaim control, not just for professional success but for mental well-being and genuine happiness.
Here's what I did, and what you can consider if you find yourself on the brink of burnout:
Recognize and Accept Limitations: I openly accepted that I wasn't great at managing people. In a world that emphasizes multifaceted talents, recognizing what you're not good at is liberating.
Prioritize Passion: I ensured that at least two days a week, I was diving deep into AI and tech research, doing what I truly loved.
Design Boundaries: By capping my working hours and being selective about meetings, I reclaimed personal time, vital for recharging.
Delegate and Trust: Whether it was administrative tasks or operational roles, I handed them over, trusting in the strengths of others.
Stay Authentic: I opted for engagements and investments that aligned with my core beliefs, ensuring I remained true to myself.
In today's fast-paced world, the narrative often revolves around 'more'. More work, more roles, more hours. But my journey taught me the power of 'less but focused'. A study from Stanford even suggests that productivity per hour declines sharply when a person works more than 50 hours a week. By working less but in a focused manner, we can achieve more.
As I pen down this story, my hope is for professionals everywhere to know that it's okay to say 'no', to choose passion over obligation, and to prioritize mental well-being over societal expectations. In doing so, not only do we prevent burnout, but we also pave the way for a happier, more successful professional life.
Remember, it's never too late to reevaluate, recalibrate, and realign with what truly matters. Our mental well-being, success, and happiness depend on it.