What Kids Can Teach Us

3 min. read

Burnout is real.

In 2019, among the 76 percent of employees who experienced burnout at least sometimes on the job, 63 percent were more likely to take a sick day, 23 percent more likely to go to the emergency room, and 2.6 times more likely to look for a new job.

It’s no surprise the last two years have SIGNIFICANTLY increased stress and burnout for millions. The impact on our heads, hearts, and bodies is no joke.

I don’t have the exact solution for you… frankly, I can’t. There’s no way of me knowing your intrinsic motivation. That’s on you.

The good news is I do have some ideas for you to ponder, questions for you to ask yourself, and some pretty cool experiments for you to play with. It’s all in my soon-to-be-released Burn Ladder. Build Bridges. Pursuing Work with Meaning + Purpose.

Here’s a sneak-peek excerpt from Chapter 5, The Pursuit of Meaning.

Ever had one of those moments when you were on fire and couldn’t be stopped? Remember what that felt like? Ever seen a musician close their eyes and be swept away by what they were doing? What about Serena Williams when she wins in straight sets? This is what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as “flow, the state when you’re carried away by joy and emotion, feeling in total control with purpose and exhilaration.” He adds, “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to the limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

Stretched, voluntary, difficult, and worthwhile—I like the sound of where this is going. The question is, how do you get “there,” not knowing if you’re looking for a moment, a series of moments, or a prolonged time? Enter Edward Deci and his colleague Richard Ryan. They wanted to understand when people experience the greatest levels of motivation and personal satisfaction. They concluded that when people are autonomous, authentic, and act with responsibility, they are at their best.

. . .

Need an image of what intrinsic motivation looks like? It’s children at “work” on the playground. They are free to be curious and creative. They just make it up as they go along, knowing there’s a pony in there somewhere. When they climb the ladder, it’s to slide down the other side.

As adults, we are uncertain how much creativity and joy we should expect in our jobs and careers. We are clear about the value of a paycheck and other external rewards, but what’s not as clear is—are the tradeoffs for “agreeing” to strip out achieving results from youthful sandbox enthusiasm worth it?

Can you be the author of your own actions? Can you be the creator of your own environment as well as a part of it? Can you derive intrinsic motivation from a job or career to find a vocation or calling?


If so, keep it up, Ladderburner!

Going from “burnout” to “on fire” is possible. And, it starts with you.

This week’s challenge:
If you’re having a tough time remembering what “work” felt like for you as a kid on a playground, head over to your local park to find a slide. Climb a different kind of ladder, and then slide down the other side.

Feel the wind. The joy. The release. The shift.

Why can’t you feel this way about your work? 
You can. Grab a shovel. Dig in.

It all comes down to you, Ladderburner. Your mindset and your actions.

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