Top Five Causes of Burnout

In medicine, it is considered malpractice to prescribe a treatment without a diagnosis.  Burnout is not a diagnosis.  It’s a symptom of a deeper problem.  The best way to mitigate and prevent burnout is to uncover the cause.  Here are my top five reasons why I think people burnout.

 Causes of Burnout

5.  Self-Ignorance

Burnout happens when demands exceed resources.  Many people do not understand what drains them and what refuels them.  Specific stressors trigger some and not others.  Some people like everything organized.  Others prefer creative spaces and spontaneity.  Some people love the beach to give them a recharge. Others prefer the mountains. Some people meditate while others like extreme sports.  Your car can’t run if you do not know what fuel to put into it.

4.  Physiology

This cause is often neglected.  When was the last time you had blood work taken?  If you find yourself unable to cope with things you had no problem dealing with before, then maybe there is a physiological cause.  Unbalanced hormones, subclinical infections, and low hemoglobin are just some possible culprits.

3.  Poor Relationships

People crave community.  When we lack good relationships, we suffer emotionally and physically.  When was the last time you reached out to a friend?  When was the last time they reached out to you?  If you lack close relationships, then there are alternatives.  Seek counseling or even a coach.  If you’re not talking it out, then chances are you’ll act it out.

2.  Lack of Purpose

Could you answer the following question:  What is your purpose?  Most people couldn’t.  What do you believe?  Why do you believe it?  These answers are based on your worldview, which everyone has.  But your purpose doesn’t have to refer to your worldview.  Do you know your purpose at work?  It’s incredible how many people are not clear on their job responsibilities despite having “read” their employee manual.  Clarifying one’s role can go a long way in mitigating burnout.

1.  Expectations

Expectations are the most common reason why I think people burnout.  To explain, let me divide the idea into two categories:  Unmet and Unrealistic.


Unmet expectations are those expectations placed on you.  For example, you are hired as a clinician, and your boss says in six months you could be at the supervisory level, and in a year, you could be making 1.5 your starting salary.  One year later, you’re still at your starting level and nowhere near getting a raise.  You start to feel discouraged, frustrated and acquire the symptoms of burnout.


Unrealistic expectations are those expectations you place on yourself.  For example, you’re hired as a janitor, and you set a goal to be CEO of the corporation in six months.  But you have no leadership training or education, and nothing that would indicate you could run an organization other than the passion for succeeding.  Six months to be a CEO is not a realistic expectation, and this will inevitably lead to disappointment.

To find out more ways to work through burnout, click HERE for Coaching and HERE to see Jim’s Keynotes and Workshops on the subject.



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