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5 Ways To Avoid Burnout At Work (And Find Inner Peace)

5 Ways To Avoid Burnout At Work (And Find Inner Peace)

Though much advise has been published on balancing work life and personal life, it doesn’t always match up with your own reality. This is especially the case when it comes to the “life” part of “work-life balance”. It’s true that overworking yourself and allowing for little time to focus on other parts of your life is poor for your well-being and performance at work. It’s also always a bit scary to change a long-standing routine, even if it’s a bad one. And if you’re getting advice that’s detracting too much from work in an attempt to promote leisure, you’re likely to end up more stressed and unsure than you were before.

This last point is what author Matias Dalsgaard noticed during his quest to help people achieve practical work-life balance plans. Rather than advising people on how to escape stressful times completely, his tips take a subtly different approach that focuses on making the most stressful parts of our lives work within the whole system. And, hopefully, you can find some inner peace in the whole thing.

Most people seek some degree of inner peace at work, and it can be difficult to obtain. Work is stressful, and most of us tend to either overwork ourselves or we are, for other reasons, negatively affected by things happening at work.

The struggle to maintain one’s inner peace and avoid burnout has become a standard ingredient of modern working life. Many of us attend seminars on work-life-balance, we see therapists, we meditate, or we seek advice on how to handle stressful careers. The balancing of one’s personal life and work life is a challenge to all of us who aspire to be successful – by whatever relevant metric. It is not surprising that so much is being said and written on the topic.

Unfortunately, I have noticed a tendency to talk about the dangers of burnout at work in terms that provoke fear and panic in the stressed individual rather than lead him or her to slow down. Our methods of discussing the dangers of stress and burnout are too defensive and too reactive. We tend to think that the busyness of work is somehow dangerous, and that we need to balance out the busyness with the emptiness of non-work.

Our emphasis on practices such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness – or simply just periods of nothingness – as means of balancing out the stress of work illustrates this point. All of these things can be good and helpful in their own right, but they all stand for a “letting go” of things. They are defined by inactivity. This logic leads to a kind of life where the “active” is considered to be dangerous and something that should always be balanced out by the “inactive”. We oscillate between the two extremes – fearful of staying too long in any of the camps. This oscillation is stressful in itself.

It would be much better if we had a way of living that could embrace, enjoy, and handle the tough, everyday work life rather than constantly looking for ways to escape it.

I have five suggestions for how this can be accomplished.

1. Work hard

Working hard and achieving results individually or as a team is a source of satisfaction and fulfillment. Do not get trapped in the fear of working too hard and embrace the rush that hard work can give you. If your life becomes nothing but work, you will of course need to take a step back and reconsider your lifestyle. Periods of hard work and excitement should not be avoided – but rather enjoyed. Hard work is part of life, and you should embrace it rather than be afraid of working too hard.

2. Make bold decisions

Burnout centres on the loss of control. People burn out when they start feeling that they are just another brick in the wall, just another cog in the machine. Making bold decisions at work puts you back on track – suddenly it matters how you handle the situation, because the success or failure of a project is wholly down to you. This might sound stressful, and it can be. On the other hand, making bold decisions is invigorating and can inject new purpose into your work, turning you from someone whose life is run by others to someone running their own life.

3. Stimulate your imagination

Rather than seeking ways of emptying out your mind, you can use your spare time to “fill” it with ideas and inspiration instead. Read books. Watch movies. Enjoy art. Perhaps study religion or history. Nothing is a stronger remedy for burnout than being so rich on knowledge and imagination that you are able to mentally rise above the situation. Most burnouts occur when someone is stuck in a simple perspective on life. The burned out individual no longer sees the bigger picture or the meaning in what they do, and his or her life is narrowed down to being about work and merely surviving the job. Rich interests and a rich imagination keep one going when situations get tough.

4. Take time off

Even if I suggest means other than “emptying out” your mind in order to combat burnouts, you do need time off, time to think about things other than work. As does everybody. However, time off might not necessarily mean a weekend or a holiday in the traditional sense. What is important is that you find regular time to let your thoughts, your imagination, and your emotions run freely. Let your mind wander. This can and should happen every day, not only on weekends or during vacations. It is a sign of health if you are able just to let go of things – and enjoy free thinking and feeling. This can happen over a cup of coffee, in the shower, or wherever.

5. Have a sense of humour

The humorous person is larger than life. If you are able to find humour amidst hard work, the work will never control you. There is a pleasure in working hard, but it is important that you are able to rise above the simple problem-solving level of your job. Humour is a perfect example of how to do this. The humorous person sees things from another angle; he takes himself and his work less seriously. This is not intended to produce mediocre results, but rather to not be overrun by work. The humorous individual is playful and innovative in problem solving, and can do so because they are on top of things and not ruled by work.

Matias Dalsgaard is an author, Ph.D. in Philosophy and CEO of the successful Danish startup, GoMore. Read more in his recently published book, Don’t Despair – Letters to a Modern Man, which describes ways of preserving oneself in an environment of pressure and ambitions.

Five ways to avoid burnout at work and find inner peace | Matias Dalsgaard

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Featured photo credit: Home office from the Brilliance range/Betta Living via flic.kr

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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  • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
  • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
  • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
  • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

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These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

For Changing a Job

  1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
  2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
  3. Get a raise.
  4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
  5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
  6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
  7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
  8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
  9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
  10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

For Switching Career Path

  1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
  2. Find a mentor.
  3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
  4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
  5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
  6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
  7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
  8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
  9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
  10. Create a financial plan.

For Getting a Promotion

  1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
  2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
  3. Become a mentor.
  4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
  5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
  6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
  7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
  8. Become a better communicator.
  9. Find new ways to be a team player.
  10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

For Acing a Job Interview

  1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
  2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
  3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
  4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
  5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
  6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
  7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
  8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
  9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
  10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

Career Goal Setting FAQs

I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

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2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

4. Can I have several career goals?

It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

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On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

Summary

You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

  • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
  • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
  • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
  • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
  • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

More Tips About Setting Work Goals

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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