Jonathan Malesic had always dreamed of being a college professor. The reality, however, didn’t match up to his expectations. It got to the point where he found it difficult to drag himself out of bed to teach a class. Nothing seemed to help: therapy, medication, even extended leave.
So he quit.
Obviously, that’s not the solution for everyone. But in his new book The End of Burnout: Why work drains us and how to build better lives, Malesic reflects on his own experience as well as our “burnout culture” that primes us for exhaustion.
In this interview on Life & Faith, Malesic describes that culture as a toxic combination of deteriorating working conditions – think stagnant wages, the gig economy, the decline of union membership – as well as our overinvestment in work as a source of meaning and purpose (“do what you love”). Then there’s the “badge of honour” in being a “work martyr” – someone so committed to work they’re prepared to sacrifice themselves to the cause.
To plot a path out of burnout, Malesic turns to unlikely sources – like the ora et labora (prayer and work) rhythms of Benedictine monks at Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico. There, the monks tame the “demon of work” by subordinating it to their higher callings.
If you’ve ever felt demoralised about your job, this is an interview that will name your spiritual ills and convince you that there is more to life than work.
Buy Jonathan Malesic’s book The End of Burnout: Why work drains us and how to build better lives
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Interested in the Maslach Burnout Inventory? Find more info here.