Could be the word of the year or maybe even the century - at this point it's almost glorified, to the extent where if you haven't experienced it, you're probably doing life wrong. I'm going to make a wild educated guess (oxymoron) that most people that say they feel burnt out don't actually feel burnout, they've just never pushed themselves to this level before. I think we're approaching (and possibly already at) an age where people are told what to feel or identify with (or at least to question themselves) which gets them to think towards that direction when there never was a hint of such problems or inquiries on their mind, which eventually leads them to feeling they're actually feeling that way. With my daily dose of cynicism aside, I do think that there is a rising case of genuine burnout in our generation, as we are constantly struggling with the uncertainties of the future, heightened by our over exposure to others' successes and enhanced competition to be a "decent human being" in 2021.
Because I've admitted to my view on the true case count of burnout above, it'd be hypocritical for me to come out here and say that I've felt burnout before. To be completely honest, I don't think I ever have. There's never been a moment in my life where I truly could not do more or did not have the capacity to handle another task, simply because I don't think I've ever lived life to the fullest - in fact, the past six months in aggregation might be more effort I've put into life than I have in the past 23 years put together. I acknowledge that I'm simplifying burnout, as work-based toll doesn't have to be the sole origin of the phenomena, but at my age it often is. I do think that it's important to note here that while physical burnout is certainly something that many people go through, more severe cases of burnout probably derive from the mind. Our mental state can also be viewed through a scope of "real estate," with a "physical" limit for what we can handle at a above average level. I actually think it's not about the number of things you're juggling or the hours you're putting into something - I can eat good food with my favorite people every single day for 14 hours a day and I assure you I won't feel burnout - on the contrary, I think that limited activity in a handful (and maybe even one) concentration can lead to burnout at a higher frequency than diverting your attention in different avenues. It's when someone is stretched thick rather than thin (not sure if that analogy even makes sense, maybe I'm burnt out) that you really start to feel the burnout.
I don't think effort necessarily dictates the rate at which you'll burn out, rather the disparity in actual return on investment vs. what one hopes to gain out of the effort put in. If effort always equaled results desired, burn out would not exist as the results desired would be sufficient if not overly abundant in refuelling the individual for the next task at hand. Burn out occurs when you're constantly digging a hole with no purpose, or worse yet, you originally thought there was a purpose, now recognize there isn't, but have no choice but to continue (investment banking anyone?) That's why I think motivation alignment is crucial in a healthy lifestyle - not aligning your motivations to what you think they should be, but understanding what you actually are motivated by and settling on those motivations. I know that the term "settling" is very unsettling, but I ensure you that if you don't do this mental exercise early on in life, you'll be miserable. Is your sole motivation to make good money in a stable upward mobility job without the worry to go get a masters degree and worry about innovative solutions to life? Pursue investment banking with a smile and don't worry about the time lost, you'll get exactly what you wanted. Are you looking to make $75k+, thrilled about the hustle of every minute and don't want to overly use your brain? What's wrong with becoming a waiter (I actually feel like many waiters make much more than their NYC marketing specialist counterparts who do it for the aesthetic and odd sense of white collar pride)? As long as you know what you're getting out of something and that's the thing you want, burnout, at least mental burnout, won't occur. If you constantly ask yourself "why am I even doing this," I promise you burnout is around the corner.
As a reminder, I've probably lived more "fully" in the past six months than I've ever lived in my life. This isn't a weird flex - in fact, this is me admitting to you that I've never even been on the candidate list for burnout on a surface level. I've always been a put in 30% effort for 90% results type of guy and had no interest in putting in 100% for 200% results. I know you're waiting for some fundamental change or event in my life that led me to where I am today - there really is nothing. No financial difficulty, no insane breakup, and I promise it wasn't the pandemic. I genuinely don't know what came to me - quick pause here, I am NOT saying that I am investing every minute of my life to self-betterment at the moment nor am I saying I chug creatine in the morning and read self-help books instead of watching Youtube. I still partake in midnight pasta and watching Instagram reels. What I am saying is that although from a birds eye view, I'm probably closer to what most people conceive to be leading indicators for burnout, I feel the least burnout I've felt since birth. I wake up everyday at 6am (not as a finance bro meme, but I actually do now lol), get a two hour work out in, read the bible, write a blog post, make a Youtube video, get on career consulting calls, learn how to code part time, spend time with my family and friends, attend bible study, play golf, read a book a week and scheme on some side projects in case I feel adventurous. Also forgot to mention that I have a full time job. Two years ago I slept any chance I got, felt nauseous thinking about the gym and didn't even have the energy to play video games. I feel less burnt out now than ever.
There really is no revolutionary conclusion or wake up moment in this post - I just want to reflect on where I am now and let you know that burn out isn't about being overused or being stretched thin - it's all about the misalignment of results intended vs. actual results. If the things I invested in didn't work out the way they did, I actually don't think I'd be having this revelation (maybe this is the true reflection right here). But I'm not sure if that matters, because through the past six months I've learned what actually matters to me and how to get there, but also recognized if things don't work out I have the ability to make other venues.
Perhaps ironically, I'm taking the rest of the week "off" to do a little city adventuring and visiting family and friends. Hope everyone can get some rest, talk next Monday.