Is it possible to be burnt out doing what you love?

Dubai - We glorify pursuing a career that we are truly interested in. But that alone doesn't ensure you do not burn out

By Malavika Varadan

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Published: Thu 30 Jun 2022, 6:02 PM

“Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life.” How often have you heard this quote being used? Motivational speakers and gurus on Instagram use it liberally, company training rooms have it etched on their walls and we even have it scribbled on tote bags and coffee mugs in an attempt to inspire.

The trouble is, it is not true. In fact, I believe it’s the opposite.

We have all heard of the term burnout, and when we do read the stories and hear the term, we think of people stuck in dead-end jobs, toxic work cultures, people dispassionate about their profession.

Is it possible to be burnt out doing what you love?

I say, yes, a big, resounding yes.

I am a teacher, an entrepreneur and, famously, someone who found their dream job twice over. First as a presenter with the most powerful radio network in the city, and the second time when I became an entrepreneur teaching young people theatre and public speaking. It doesn’t get better than this – my work is profitable, passion-driven, filled with purpose and appreciation, and is what I believe I was born to do. It ticks all the boxes. And I work harder and longer than most people I know.

What no one tells you about doing “what you love” is that it takes a lot out of you. You want to do more and more of it. You want to achieve a kind of perfection. Most importantly though, you become the work and the work becomes you. Your sense of identity is so deeply intertwined with ‘what you love’ that it is hard to distance yourself from the risk of failure, the outcome of your efforts or the feeling that you could have done more, done better.

It becomes much harder to find work:life balance, or balance at all, about the work you do – and this lack of balance inevitably leads to burnout.

What we speak even less of is the impact of working with and for someone who is all about their passion: work.

The ‘do-what-you-love’ leader is guilty of expecting the same hours, efforts, passion and sense of ownership from their team as they put in themselves.

Can you measure one person’s passion against another person’s? Isn’t that a space ripe for misunderstanding and misjudgement, and eventually the burning out of a whole team?

As more and more members of Gen Z walk away from dead-end jobs and careers they don’t care about, toward what ‘they love’, I feel like the choice must come with a disclaimer.

Do what you love, but remember you will be working through a lot of your life. If you don’t learn to draw the line between your self and the work you do, you are in for a bumpy ride.

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