We are engineers. You and I love to solve things. They might not be puzzles or even complicated. They just need to have the end result of helping people and we will jump right in and attempt to solve it. Why is that? What makes us stay up all night at a moment’s notice? Does it seem like their is a sign around your head that reads “Will work for compliments”?
Why do we burn out?
Coding for a Challenge
Anyone who has written code long enough can remember a night or two that they stayed up way past their bedtime. Why? All for the challenge of solving the problem. This problem usually isn’t a large unsolved mystery of this world. Just a simple efficiency problem. In my career it has been everything from “we want to enter in timecards” to “we would like to ship pies”.
We are pretty selfish if you think about it. We need to know that the code we are writing will help someone in some way. It can be for the masses or it can be for yourself. This might be why I have always been bored at the programming riddle types of puzzles – think CodeKata type of riddles.
There must have been someone that told me to only find satisfaction in helping people. For some unknown reason it just happened to be software development. Even me writing that is pretty selfish though… I think of my brothers and sisters that are all in service related fields that end up helping someone in the end.
So why do we burn out!?
Maybe burnout isn’t industry specific? Let’s suppose there is a burnout syndrome that only affects certain people. I suppose it would be the majority it affected. It could be it only affects those whose grades were never good enough. That’s it!
It isn’t just developers that burn the midnight oil and burn out. It is everyone who has been told at some point that they need to DO better. That what they did is not good enough. Yea that is it. Everyone who has told you you’re not good enough is why you continue to burn out with work or life. It doesn’t matter that the last 100 clients told you the project was amazing – that one client really was unpleased and damn it, you’re going to fix it!
That doesn’t explain why you keep burning out though. Everyone has a bad client, patient, waiter, or customer. We ruled out that it is because we love the challenge. It affects all industries. It isn’t because someone told you that you’ll never achieve greatness.
So WHY do we burn out?
I Sense a Disturbance
Burnout is strong sign of an imbalance between the life and work. You are not burned out because you like to work late on projects – it is because you are forced to finish the projects on an unreasonable deadline. You are burned out because there is a lack of control over your domain of expertise. The job is chaotic and requires constant attention so you don’t lose focus.
You need to start managing the stressors that are contributing to burnout. Evaluate, adjust, seek support. We are all human and want to make the best of this life.
Do not let a demanding or underwhelming job undermine your health.