Q. I'm 63 and have been working my whole life. I'm completely burned out but know I can't afford to retire. I'm afraid my attitude is going to start affecting the quality of my work. How can I recharge my interest in my career?
A. You can recharge your interest in your career by understanding your fatigue is not just your job but the monotony of doing the same tasks week in and week out. Our brains desperately need new challenges as we age or parts of our brain literally die off.
Human beings are funny creatures in that we tend to exaggerate our feelings. If we're thirsty, we think we can drink a lake. If we're hot, we fantasize about being in a freezer. If we're fatigued, we believe we'll never want to do anything again.
Many people imagine that retirement would be having time to watch grass grow and paint dry. The truth is that doing nothing would be satisfying for about a week and then all of us would grow restless.
To work with your natural human tendencies, give yourself breaks where you do nothing or do something completely different than your career. Take a sick leave day and stare at the ceiling. On weekends, take a trip to somewhere you've never explored. In the evenings, consider a class on anything you know nothing about.
The idea here is to rest but also jolt your brain with novelty. When we feel burned out, partly we need to do nothing, but partly we need to get out of our ruts. The reason we joke about the grave and a rut having everything in common except the dimensions is because we can feel dead without newness.
People who study aging brains tell us that the brain does some serious pruning after age 50. Your brain wants you to be efficient, so if you never use a part of your brain as you age, that part will cease to function. Unless you want a limited and depressed brain at 80, change up your hobbies.
You can bring this same perspective to your workplace. If you deal with things, look for opportunities to deal with people. If you deal with people, look for opportunities to deal with things. You know if your career mostly uses your right or left brain. Scan your workplace to find tasks that use the other side of your brain.
In our workplaces, there will always be factors we cannot control (like being financially unable to retire). The trick to recharge your career is to put your creativity into the factors you can control (finding new challenges). Don't get into the emotional trap of ruminating on what you can't change or you'll enter a cul-de-sac from which there is no escape.
Once you can accept (not like) the reality of having to work, avenues to enrich your current job will be obvious.
The last word(s)
Q. I think my boss is sleeping with one of my coworkers. Is there a diplomatic way to ask if this is going on?
A. No, investigating who is sleeping with whom is good for the career of gossip columnists and bad for the careers of everyone else.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
Burned out and can't retire? Here are some tips for a recharge
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