Living Life on Purpose: Gaining Independence From Burnout

©Jane A. Simington, PHD. March, 2013

Living-on-purposeIt has been a long and for some, a difficult winter. This is the time of the year when many feel overwhelmed and at the edge of burnout. I share this article, hoping it will help you regain your footing on the earth. I wish you speed as you reclaim your purpose in life.

BURNOUT can be described as an erosion of the soul, a feeling that regardless of what a person does, they cannot make a difference in their workplace. Burnout is often accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, a loss of motivation, and a sense of mismatch between what is being required and what the person is capable of. This is why burnout is recognized more as a situation of being off-purpose than of feeling overworked.

LIVING LIFE ON PURPOSE is increasingly becoming an important factor in peoples’ lives. This is especially true for those who have moved through a difficult life experience. Crisis has a way of driving people inward, there to discover the truer meaning for their lives. When this occurs, being involved in meaningful activities is an intensely important part of living. Since meaning and purpose are major spiritual needs, when the requirements of the job do not meet this end, the sense of soul erosion is heightened.

Burnout most commonly occurs for people who care deeply about their jobs and truly want to make a difference, yet are unable to do so because there is something about the job that interferes with this desire. Regardless of the cause, a person on the verge of burnout feels a sense of inner conflict between what is required of them and their own creative ideas and abilities. The conflict blocks their creativity and keeps the person from doing the best they can. Burnout and all its manifesting behaviors can become a way to self-preserve and justify one’s actions.


Stage 1: Probably Interfering with Others
* Persistent irritability, anxiety
* Jaw clenching, night grinding
* Insomnia
* Unable to concentrate
* Forgetful
* Heart palpitations
* Headaches (weekends)

Stage 2: Probably Not Helping Others
* Need a three-day weekend
* Exhausted in the morning
* Late for work
* Social withdrawal
* Procrastination
* Cynical attitude
* Resentful
* Decreased sexual desire
* Increased use of alcohol, caffeine, smoking

Stage 3: Possibly Harming Others
* Chronic stomach and/or bowel problems
* Chronic physical fatigue
* Chronic mental fatigue
* Desire to drop out of family, society
* Suicide thoughts and acts


©Jane A. Simington, PHD. 2010

1) Begin something new and challenging, both at work and outside of work. This will allow your creative juices to flow again.
2) Take at least one risk a day.
This will take you out of your comfort zone, a necessary step in beginning to live the life you were meant to live.
3) Tiptoe into a new job setting.
Do not slam the door behind you, so you can go back for a time if you need to. The best way to do this is to stay at the job part-time, while you begin something new, perhaps as a consultant, or on a casual basis.
4) Volunteer in a job setting where you think you could do good deeds.
Many volunteer positions turn into full-time employment.
5) Reinvent yourself by taking personal growth workshops.
Self development is a great cure for burnout.
6) Gain new marketable skills.
This may require returning to school. Learning a new skill is a great way to boost the self-esteem damaged in the burnout situation.
7) Journal three pages each morning in answer to the question, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”
Write nonstop and then put your Journal away. Do not read the results for one month. By the end of the month, you will know what your soul is trying to tell you about your purpose in life.
8) Write your own obituary.
When you are complete, ask yourself “What else does this need to say?” Then begin to take one step each day to make that happen.
9) Watch those you admire.
They are likely a mirror for what you are capable of becoming.
10) Complete a Collage art activity.
To do so, sit with some magazines and ask yourself; “What do I want the rest of my life to look like?” Cut out the pictures that represent that, and paste them on a sheet of construction paper. When you finish it, take steps to find out the meaning behind the pictures. You can use a resource such as my book, Through Soul’s Eyes: Reinventing a Life of Joy and Promise” to help you identify some of the subtle meanings being revealed to you. The pictures you chose and the ways in which you placed them on your collage will give you many insights into your true purpose in life.


Burnout is more than overwork. Burnout is about feeling unfulfilled. Burnout has much to do with the soul’s need to be living the life you were meant to live. It is important that none of us die with our song still unsung.

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