Burned Out? How Can You Put Passion Back Into Your Work?

An often not talked about cause of career and job burnout is either the lack of or loss of a clear, Vision, Mission and Purpose as these things relate to your work.  Consider the following two scenarios.

Scenario A: You go to college or graduate school because that is what is expected.  You get a job because you have to, not thinking much about personal fulfillment.  You did not consider a Vision, Mission, or Purpose mainly because no one ever suggested that you should.  You stay on a career path, getting used to the security and comfort.  You may start a family whose security and comfort then rely on you.  You do well, advancing in your career and then you reach a plateau, achieving your material and status goals.  You become aware of feeling unfulfilled, lost, tired, burned out or all of the above.  You have no passion for your work. You wonder is this all?  What do I do now?

Scenario B: You may go to college or graduate school because that is what is expected but at some point you begin your career guided by a clear Vision, Mission, and or Purpose.  Let’s say you have written out your ideal scenario for your job or career.  From this scenario you have derived your goals, both large and small.  You have put these goals on a timeline, maybe even making a 5, 10, 20 or 50-year plan.  This Vision or mission sustains you for many years and you feel sure this is what you are meant to be doing.  Your career has brought you material success, status perhaps, but more importantly you have felt fulfilled.  At some point you become aware of a feeling of decreasing fulfillment.  You may feel somewhat lost, tired, burned out or all of the above. Suddenly you realize that your Vision, Mission, and Purpose have become cloudy. You wonder is this all?  What do I do now?

SO WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? Or more importantly what is the solution?  How can you return the passion that you once had to your work?

Maybe it is time to take an inventory of your Vision, Mission and Purpose and their connection to your work. Maybe it is time to look at your goals more deeply and ask “WHY?” Why do you want these things and why have you chosen to do what you do?

The Vision Inventory:
The following 10 questions when taken together can act as a powerful tool to help you connect or reconnect with the energy, vitality, and passion that you need to fuel your life’s work, stave off burnout, and help you fill your work with purpose and meaning again. 


Ask yourself:

  • What is driving you?  According to Dr. Rick Warren, author of  “A Purpose Driven Life,” you may be driven by resentment, anger, fear, materialism or the need for approval. In short, are you driven by ego? While these things can act as temporary motivators, they will not sustain you. Alternatively, you may be guided by a purpose that nourishes you. Ask yourself which forces you are choosing as motivators.
  • Have you made or are you willing to make service the foundation of your purpose? If your energy and motivation have waned it could be because you are not taking advantage of one of the most powerful natural laws: the more we give, the more we get. Working for your own selfish ends, material possessions, and again that EGO will motivate you to a point and then their power wanes.  When you shift your thinking to serving others your energy will be renewed and replenished on a regular basis.
  • Does your work contribute to the world in a positive way? When your work is a contribution that brings positive energy to others and the world this same energy will be returned to you. In turn this can return passion to your work and your life.  Again, you get what you give.
  • Have you demonstrated flexibility when pursuing your goals?  It is good to have goals and even to be specific about them, but have you been so finite with your goals that you have not allowed for undreamed possibilities?  There may be some new and exciting ways to approach your work and to advance your Vision.  Holding on too tightly to the notion of your goals having to happen exactly as you see them may also be draining your much needed energy. Passion involves spontaneity.
  • Have you been patient with your Vision? Again having goals with a timeline is useful to a point, but have you doggedly held onto the notion that you should have reached a certain plateau by a certain date even after that deadline has passed?  Continually telling yourself that you SHOULD be further along the path of your Vision is a stress producer and again can only motivate you to a point.  When a stress is applied continually to an organism (you) it loses its stimulatory power and leads to fatigue (read burnout).
  • Have you really allowed yourself to be guided by a deeper purpose?  Sometimes it is possible to lie to ourselves, to hide a mundane motive beneath a good one.  You may claim to desire to serve others when really you are seeking your own self-aggrandizement.  If you are truly guided by your purpose you will be energized, not depleted.  According to Dr. Wayne Dyer, being guided by a passionate purpose fills you with an optimism that acts as a powerful antidote, pulling you through the rough spots in life.
  • What do you value most about the nature of your work? There should be much that you value in your work.  If there isn’t it is time to consider why you are pursuing this path. What you do should give life to you.  Think about times when you have felt most happy, vibrant and alive in your career.  What was it about those times that make them “peak experiences”?  Do you still get that feeling from your work?  If not how can you get more of what you loved from those past experiences?
  • Does your work express your unique talents? Do you do the work that you do just because you can and because it “pays the bills” or because it involves your unique gifts and brings you great pleasure? According to Deepak Chopra the law of Dharma or (purpose) says that every human being has a unique talent and when you combine this with service to humanity you will experience unlimited abundance. When you are engaged in work that expresses your unique talents you do not tire so easily because you lose track of time and just enjoy the work.
  • Do you love your work and does it bring you joy? Nelson Bolles says “Your mission in life is where your deep joy and the world's deep hunger meet." Too often we think of work as having to be a struggle or can’t envision ourselves making a living doing what we actually love to do, but when you follow your bliss true abundance will follow.  This includes an abundance of energy. When you love your work you can put love and passion into your work. When you do not love your work or when you don’t enjoy it you are unfulfilled and this leads to burnout and stagnation. In his poem “On Work” Kahlil Gibran says “All work is empty save when there is love.”
  • Is it time for a new Vision, Mission or Purpose? The last possible stage of the Vision Realization Continuum (VRC) (Cutts, 2004) is Separation. Sometimes people find their Vision, Mission or Purpose and commit to it for a lifetime but sometimes the relationship with a Vision is not meant to be forever.  If you are feeling stagnant or burned out while living what you think is your Vision it may be time to consider this.  Although the idea of letting ones Vision go may bring about feelings of loss and pain for some, others may feel contentment and joy at having had an ongoing relationship with her Vision and feel satisfied with the fruits of this relationship.  If you have taken an inventory of your Vision, Mission, and Purpose, and you listen to your instincts you may find that it is time to move on. 

If you decide that it is time to move on to a new Vision and this seems painful it may help to remember that when a relationship with a Vision ends the work of Commitment, stage seven of the VRC, is never in vain because the union between the person and the Vision produced something positive.  This energy does not simply die because the relationship ends.  Finding a new Vision is not always easy and can’t be forced but there are concrete steps you can take and I this will be addressed in upcoming articles.

But if after taking the above inventory you decide that you are still living the right vision for you then it may just be time to dig deeper and or make your Vision bigger.  To do this ask yourself, “What are three wishes you have to heighten your vitality, health and happiness as they relate to your work or career?”  Where might you go next to share your talents? Once you generate the answers to this question turn those wishes into goals and pursue them with the renewed vigor that you find from re-affirming your purpose.

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