The only reason I can speak about this is because I understand what it’s like. In fact, I know it so well that I’ll never forget the excruciating pain of it.
If you love your work and can’t imagine doing anything else or being anywhere else, that’s wonderful. You’re probably working on something you’re meant to be doing.
But if you’re feeling stuck, unhappy and uncertain about what to do about your work (or someone you know is), it might be helpful to see the signs you’re going down the wrong path. Because it can be happening without even realizing it.
Most of us like to think that it’s best to wait for things to get better, because sometimes things do get better. On the other hand, we all know that our time is limited. Once it’s gone, we don’t get it back. What many of us don’t know is that chronic stress and unused potential aren’t benign. There are seriously harmful consequences of living a life that isn’t for us.
While success and struggle aren’t mutually exclusive, there are certain kinds of struggles that are red flags for burning out. Here’s a list of some of the signs you might be going down the wrong path:
You’ve lost interest in your work and struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
Your work doesn’t bring you satisfaction.
You look forward to weekends, holidays, snow days and retirement (basically any day you don’t have to do your work).
You take sick days when you’re not sick.
You continuously question what you should be doing.
You’re always thinking about work.
You compare yourself to your colleagues and believe that something’s wrong with you because you don’t feel the same about your work as they do.
You’re looking for other options.
You’re stressed most of the time.
You’re miserable, irritable and unhappy.
You feel drained after working.
You feel the need to unwind with drugs, alcohol or over-eating.
You’re not sleeping well.
You’ve put in a lot of time and effort and things aren’t getting any better.
You feel like a failure for not liking your work the way you thought you would.
You’re worried that you’ve spent too much time and money to get to where you are that it seems impossible and irresponsible to do something else.
You feel like you’ve lost your identity and a part of who you are.
You feel the need to sacrifice your values and beliefs to fit in with your colleagues.
You’re afraid of being judged, criticized, rejected or ignored by your colleagues for quitting.
You believe you have to work your whole life doing work you don’t like, just to make a living.
You’re afraid of upsetting your family if you quit.
You’re afraid you’re too old or too young to do something different.
I could go on, but I’ll stop here.
There’s an infinite list of signs we’re heading down the wrong path. It feels scary to admit to ourselves when it’s happening, scary to admit to other people and even scarier to do something about it. But these things aren’t as scary as getting to the end of your life and having regrets about how you spent your time.