Thursday, February 11, 2010

Burning the candle at both ends

Lately I have been pondering the saying “burning the candles at both ends” and it’s meaning. How does one burn the candle at both ends? Who is to blame? What is the effect on “burnout” on an individual?

I do not have all the answers to these questions, only some personal observations mostly stemming from my own experiences. People tend to burn the candle at both ends by over involvement. This is an oversimplification of the problem though. In reality the problem occurs when we get so caught up in certain activities that we neglect other important elements of our person, like family, health, God, or our emotional well being.

Many times our passion for one thing, such as a cause, business, work or something like this can be the other end of the fire. So we have a burning passion to succeed or make a difference burning at one end and overworking/neglect burning at the other end of the candle of our life. Then we add in the pressures of everyday life and work. Facing the same obstacles and struggles over and over again with no resolution in sight can cause a person to experience anxiety, depression, and burnout.

Who is to blame for this phenomenon? It can be easy to cast the blame on others, the boss, the public, a spouse, co-workers, society in general or even God. In then end the blame lays mostly at the feet of the person doing the “burning.” We choose to ignore certain elements of our life or hyper-focus on others at the expense of the most important ones. Our culture as a whole can share some of the burden though. We tend to value the difference makers and the corporate success stories much more than we do the relational success stories. Still, it is our decision if we are going to be ruled by the culture, or live counters cultural.

The effect of burnout is interesting because it often takes us back to the place where we should be. Burnout can lead to a loss of passion and desire. It can cause a person to rethink their values and refocus on what is important. It can be the impetus to examine your life’s calling and simplify your existence. Burnout may sideline a person from what society sees as the ultimate game – their career or the pursuit of a more money, but it can also allow a person to pursue other things and abandon the pursuit of riches, fame, accolades, security, stability, popularity and respectability.

Burnout can help us put on another set of life lenses and examine our motives, our gifts, our limitations and our dreams. Some people face this by working harder, or buying more toys, or even giving up on what once meant the most to them (God, their spouse or their life). I see this burnout experience as a fork in the road. It often happens to us in our thirties, forties or fifties and can be used by God is a life path adjustment.

So what is God doing in my life as I stare down at a burned-up candle? Right now I am praying and seeking God for guidance. I am also talking with my wife, with friends and with a counsellor to examine my next steps. For the moment though I am trying to reconnect with the most vital aspects of my life, with God, with my wife, with my kids and with myself. God bless you along your journey.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Marty - thanks so much for your post. I often have trouble with this issue, and appreciate your thoughts on 'burning out.' Prayers for you!
-Katie Valade