By now, you’ve seen the surveys: anywhere between 25%-40% of employees are considering leaving their jobs this year. In my work with private financial clients, I’ve seen this trend too. Because of the pandemic many of us are are questioning life decisions, living arrangements and careers.
If you’re in this boat, one of the next natural thoughts you might have is, “How can I get away from it — this soul sucking job — and do something I like more?” Often people feeling this pull have no idea what they will do next. So the fear that comes next shows up in full force, “I don’t actually know what I want and I’m scared to leave my job when I don’t have the next steps planned out.”
As I’ve written about in my book, I myself experienced a recharge and redirected my life and career after taking a sabbatical. I coach a significant portion of my financial planning clients through taking a sabbatical by choice as well. I can definitively say, the plan for “what’s next?” doesn’t have to be fully formed before you’re ready to take a work break, but there are steps you need to make sure you can afford the time off.
All this is well and good — but let’s take a step back for a second to examine the real reasons why so many of us have a desire to leave our jobs in the first place. It’s actually the burnout epidemic.
Causes of Burnout
While I was writing my book, I dug into the causes of burnout and found there are a few major influences. These include the systemic effects of capitalism and employers slow to move from the now archaic cultural and operational norms from when manufacturing was the dominant driver in our economy (versus the knowledge dominant economy today). But more likely the root cause is trauma and adversity in our own life or from generations past. For some people, these experiences that happened in our lifetime or that of our ancestors, can lead us to feel worthless unless we’re achieving. Needing to find validation through work and achievement is a completely societally acceptable method of engaging. Many of us have gotten really good at all the juggling as long as it feeds the achievement beast. Checking off your to-do list, after all, can be one of the most satisfying parts of many peoples’ day.
An article was recently published in Refinery 29 examining some of the more immediate reasons we are all collectively coming to terms with the epidemic of burnout across industries. It’s not just exhaustion, it’s overwhelm at the system.
One aspect I found particularly interesting is that this didn’t happen overnight or in one generation. Doctors, for instance, experience subtle “betrayals” as they go through training and the early years of the profession by mentors, teachers, and colleagues awakening to the fact that they probably can’t be the perfectly kind and empathetic professional they wanted to be. These little betrayals are further perpetrated by the institutions they work for, the weight of student debt, and more broadly the the healthcare and insurance systems.
Expectations of Work
Work, today, is failing to live up to the expectations we had of finding passion and purpose in what we do while getting paid well. There’s room for institutions to reform the world of work. But in the meantime we have our own individual work to do. But there’s often guilt associated with leaving a “good” job. In my book I refer to this as “golden handcuffs.”
We might have a conversation like this in our head — “I can do this job, it’s not that hard, and if I don’t take it too seriously I can work on other passion projects on the side.” or “How can I give up these well paid role when I don’t know what to do next?” But all the while, a need to feel fulfilled through work isn’t being addressed. Have we even asked ourselves this particular “why” question enough times to arrive at the core of what’s going on in our brains?
That’s why I include so many journal prompts in The Resiliency Effect. We all must take steps to go through our own inner journey to discover for ourselves where these needs come from and which of these needs have a place in our current self.
Without this inner journey, I’m afraid when we finally find the next job, next career, or next work break it’ll be for similar reasons including overwhelm and burnout.
Cady North, CFP® RLP® is the author of The Resiliency Effect and financial planner to women across the country through North Financial Advisors.
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Cady North had the opportunity to sit down with Nat Brown and Sylvie Hall of the Female Founders Network Podcast to talk about all things entrepreneurship and financial resilience. This podcast is great for those navigating business ownership, leadership and life. Give it a listen here.
We’ve all experienced some form of adversity in our lives. The good news is we naturally develop resiliency as a result of negative experiences that we had. Resiliency gives us skills, techniques and coping mechanisms that help us bounce back in the face of future trauma or challenges. Typically, resiliency is a really good thing.
It means we survived.
But I’m here to tell you that resiliency is also a double edged sword. Sometimes the traits that make us resilient, like an “I can do it myself” attitude, over-functioning, or over-responsibility, can lead straight to burnout, anxiety, and depression.
These traits can be valued by society though, so it’s often hard to recognize them as challenges or limiting beliefs. Resiliency keeps us safe, and the skills protect us from future pain or disappointment. But often these coping mechanisms may be hindering us and holding us back from making progress towards the big dreams we have.
That was true for me. Growing up in an alcoholic family as the oldest of three siblings, I started life with more responsibility than the average person. I helped hold the family together by doing the grocery shopping in high school and working in various aspects of our family business.
Tragically, both my parents died of alcoholism-related diseases within two years of one another. As the oldest, I was suddenly in charge of not only managing their estates, but also taking care of my two younger siblings. At the age of twenty-two, I became the sole guardian of my sixteen-year-old sister, which was an unbelievable amount of responsibility to be handed to a young adult.
I didn’t have a typical young adulthood with the safety net of family to learn skills from and fall back on. Failure wasn’t an option. I was “adulting” long before “adulting” was a common meme among millennials. I became self-reliant and was praised for my maturity and “having it all together.” My “can do it” attitude meant that I also excelled in my career.
I was resilient.
But this came at a cost. For instance, I didn’t get to have spring breaks and learn how to “unplug” and turn off. Most of my breaks during school were spent working to support myself financially. I didn’t learn the value of finding balance with my time and my boundaries. I struggled to understand and pay attention to my own needs for support and protection from others or learn when recharging and taking a break would make sense.
I had a belief that I have to work hard, and keep working hard in order to be worth something. Eventually, through self reflection, I made this link between my incessant need for busyness and achievement and how it was the only thing fueling my self-worth. It was mostly driven by my imposter syndrome – a belief that despite outward success I didn’t deserve it or it didn’t really mean anything.
It’s no wonder I struggled with anxiety and depression throughout my teens and 20s. It’s also no wonder that I moved through a career path and career ladder simply because of the circumstances I found myself in, not because it was the path that I designed or dreamed for myself.
I’m trying to speak out against this idea that we need to be busy and achievement focused to be worth something.
It took a long time for me to consider how these traits left over from my trauma — which are often valued in a career — were hurting me. Once I did, the good news is, I think my inherent resilience kicked in. I was able to adapt and consider another path, one that was more even keeled and includes more balance.
You may not think to describe embarking on an entrepreneurial journey as “even keeled and balanced,” but the truth is it was easier for me to create that for myself than trying to create it within the corporate environment.
Crusade Against Busyness
One of the reasons I dared to write a book exploring some of the traumas I had and profiling experiences of many others who made big changes in their life as a result of their own self-reflection and inner journeys is because I’m trying to speak out against this idea that we need to be busy and achievement focused to be worth something. It’s a bit of a crusade that I’m on.
And it’s warranted because burnout is an epidemic right now. People experience burnout in different ways. Burnout can show up in an obvious way like exhaustion, the inability to sleep, or maybe the strong need to sleep all the time. A hallmark of burnout is not having any personal time or self care in our lives. It can also show up as more of a simmering frustration, anger, resentment, or unpleasantness at your job.
Busyness and burnout can also just be a distraction. A distraction from experiencing uncomfortable emotions. It prevents us from looking too closely at how our past painful experiences in life might have given us coping mechanisms that hold us back from living in more happiness and fulfillment.
Once I made that link between busyness and my self worth, I was able to start letting go of the societal pressures to always stay busy and productive. Letting go of my corporate job helped me let go of my busyness faster, as I could now set the bar without input or guidelines from a boss or corporate culture.
Becoming an entrepreneur allowed me not only to live a life-long dream of working to help people with their personal finances, but do it on my terms with protections in place to prevent getting too close to burnout and overwork again.
Naming and achieving a big dream takes courage and being comfortable with a fair amount of risk. However, if we fear risk because it reminds us of something we experienced in the past — it means we have a lot more to overcome in order to do something scary and life a big dream we have in life.
My most important personal goal today is to spend time going back and living a more carefree lifestyle, as opposed to one that’s over scheduled, overworked, and burned out. I invite you to do more of your own self reflection to discover some of your coping mechanisms — what might be holding you back from living your biggest dreams?
The Resiliency Effect draws on the disciplines of life coaching, psychology, and financial planning. My goal with the book is to offer a way to develop excitement and energy around your purpose which often is preceded by deep, inner work. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and everywhere books are sold.
In my private client work, I help facilitate clients removing obstacles to living their biggest dreams. My motto is that I help clients dream big and embrace the financial freedom we all deserve.
After 5 years owning my own financial planning business, I realized a common theme among many clients and prospects is that we all can name big dreams we have for ourselves, but very few of us are actually living them. We often find ourselves burned out and wondering what’s next. We easily move on to the next thing rather than doing the inner work necessary to achieve our outer dreams. My book, The Resiliency Effect offers a way to develop excitement and energy around your purpose.
But why should we dream big at all? Doesn’t it sometimes feel safer to remain in the status quo? Absolutely, but what feels safe and secure isn’t always the best for us.
Here are four reasons why you should give yourself permission to dream big:
It Increases Our Autonomy and Sense of Direction
When we dream big for ourselves and make moves to live more in sync with our purpose and goals, then it’s a sure fire way to exert more control over the direction for our lives and our own autonomy. This sense of agency — putting ourselves in the driver’s seat — allows us to feel like we’re in control of our thoughts, our actions, and choices and let’s us to feel more contentment in life.
Claiming that personal power can be much more fulfilling than sticking with the grind of our day-to-day and the never ending to-do lists and meetings. When we take the time to dream big, we’re intentionally taking more control over our future. This intentionality has a lot of power to bring us the energy we will need to succeed with making a big change.
Take a moment today and think about one way you could get more control back over your time, your schedule, or your purpose. Is there something new or different you’d like to do in your life or career? Don’t hold back your dreams.
It Increases Life Satisfaction
An interesting study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011 found that it was having agency and a sense of control over one’s life that lead to more and lasting happiness. This sense of control over our lives outranked more money as a predictor of whether someone was fulfilled and happy or not.
More money, of course, can lead to us having more choice and autonomy in our lives. But that’s where the similarities end. It’s long been proven that there’s a limit to the happiness money can buy. Once a person’s basic needs are met, making more money leads to merely marginal gains in happiness. Sometimes more money can even lead to a decrease in happiness and contentment (like the old saying more money, more problems.)
How can we get more autonomy in life? By ensuring we’re living according to our deepest desires and goals. More life satisfaction comes along as we start to live our biggest dreams.
If you’re having trouble dreaming big, start small. What’s one thing that would increase your life satisfaction? How would you make that happen?
It Increases Quality of Life
Most of the time when we work on achieving a big dream or making a big change in our lives we get the chance to push the reset button. We can let go of things that were the norm in our old life, career, job, or purpose and replace it with something new. This could be new boundaries on our time, our money, our family, or our calendar. This could mean adding things in regarding time spent with friends, family, creative projects, or our community.
When we take the time to evaluate and reset our lives we can increase our quality of life where things were lacking before. We can find more of that balance we were looking for between our work and personal life. We can feel more accomplished. We can feel like we’re making a difference. Or, we can simply feel more content as we live more in line with our purpose.
Think about the last time you changed jobs or made a big adjustment in life? How did it change your quality of life? What steps did you take to reset when you made this adjustment? Is there something in your life you need to reset now?
It Encourages Us to Learn and Grow
Dreaming big and then making a change in our lives is scary. On one hand, we’re taking back more of our freedom, but on the hand there’s likely a lot of unknowns. We can’t always know whether we will succeed or whether we will eventually change our minds.
Learning to be ok with this uncertainty is not a bad thing. Dreaming big despite that fear is one way in which we can learn and grow.
Another way in which we can find growth is through the simple act of researching, reflecting, planning, and learning about the “how” of our big dream. If you made it this far, you likely already know your “why.” Figuring out the how is what is going to be the most challenging and provide the most opportunity for growth.
A final way we can find growth is through the simple act of asking for help with our big dream. For some of us this comes easier than for others. But when we’re able to use resources outside ourselves it will accelerate learning and growing.
What do you need to learn to achieve your big dream? Is there a way you can break this up into easier to accomplish steps? Who can you get help from?
Hopefully these 4 reasons give you a bit more encouragement to let yourself dream big. Yes, there will likely be fear that comes too, but dreaming and accomplishing these dreams offers lots of opportunity for growth.
To read more about these topics, check out my book, The Resiliency Effect. It’s all about how to own your adversity to act on your biggest dreams.