I want to start with a simple disclaimer: I am not a therapist. And everything I’m about to claim is based solely on what I see. I am going to make an empirical argument, not a clinical one.
Here’s my central thought: I don’t think burnout has anything to do with being tired.
I think burnout has everything to do with not fitting into the position we currently occupy. Square peg in a round hole. Burnout is not primarily a physical issue, although it often manifests itself through our physical ailments.
Burnout is primarily an inability for us to exert our unique blend of passion and personality.
Burnout happens when we’re asked to give more and more time and energy to a job/task that’s not in our wheelhouse. It happens when we exist over the long haul in an environment that is, for us, devoid of the desire God has placed deep within our hearts.
60 hours per week + doing work you don’t care about = long-term burnout.
Talk to anyone who’s found the exact point where their own passions intersect with the world’s greatest need, and you won’t find burnout at those crossroads. Talk to any leader who’s living the exact dream God’s given them, and burnout simply isn’t present.
These leaders may exhibit ulcers, obsessive-compulsive behavior, workaholism, or a host of other nasty ailments. But they will not exhibit burnout. Why? Because they’re pouring their lives into people and systems (and here’s the key), because it’s exactly what THEY WANT TO be doing. They would be doing the exact job they’re doing for no money at all.
Church staff team members are leaving their jobs to write, to consult, and to plant their own churches. Designers are moving beyond the safe confines of larger ad agencies, and launching into the freelance market. Why? In most cases, it has nothing to do with pride or arrogance, and everything to do with finding that exact place where they can influence their world with the exact passion God has planted in them.
I want to be clear. Burnout is a very real thing. I’m not questioning its existence. I’m questioning its root cause.
And I really don’t think the root cause is being overworked and underpaid. I think the primary cause is our inability to marry our deepest passions and desires to a structure or organization where we honestly believe that God can change the world…