How to Overcome Burnout to Transform Your Job into a Calling5 min read

There’s a secret to being happy in any job. When you know the secret, you can overcome burnout and turn any job, or career, into a calling.

Martin Seligman, in his book Authentic Happiness (affiliate link), defines a calling as “a passionate commitment to work for its own sake. Individuals with a calling see their work as contributing to the greater good.”

Contrast that with a job, where your primary goal is to bring home a paycheck, or a career where your goal is to work your way to the top of your profession in pay or prestige.

Facing Job Burnout

There’ve been a number of times in my life where I had a job that I was burned out on. Most of the time, I quit each job looking for a better one, only to find new things to be dissatisfied about.

I’ve delivered newspapers and pizzas. I’ve worked as a groundskeeper and night-watchman. From stacking boards at the end of line saw to alcohol and drug counselor, I’ve tried many different kinds of jobs.

The job I currently hold, I’ve been in for almost 10 years. I’m happy with my job. But it’s not the work, the hours, the people or the pay that make me the happiest.

There are some great things about my job. But I believe many of the great things about my job are great because I discovered how to turn my job into a calling.

Discovering Your Calling

The discovery was not obvious to me. This is a case of being able to look back and see that I made my job a calling without being fully aware of what was doing.

Before I transformed my job into calling I was actively looking for a new job. I wasn’t happy at work. It was another one of those jobs I was ready to quit. I was looking for something better.

Then the company I worked for was acquired by another company.

Would I jump ship and look for something better, or face the upheaval that happens when companies merge?

Many of my colleagues left the company.

Considering my options, I thought about the things that I was good at. On top of all my skills and knowledge, I realized I had character strengths. I could build on these strengths to succeed in the new company that now employed me.

It occurred to me that if I applied these strengths, and demonstrated them to my new employer, I had a great opportunity to write my own job description.

So, that’s what I did.

The company had its own expectations about what I should be doing. They call these responsibilities and deliverables. But in using my strengths to get the work done, I discovered how to be happier at work.

But I wasn’t only happier, I thrived.

I got a promotion, a 50% raise, and work that I enjoyed.

The key was in discovering my strengths, learning how to apply them, then practicing them often.

This is the key for you.

The Power of Your Signature Strengths

You have character strengths. We all have them. And researchers have discovered that once you know your top five character strengths, you can put these “signature strengths” to work to improve many aspects of your life, including your work.

Putting your signature strengths to work on the job makes it possible for you to transform your job into a calling. As a bonus, flexing your signature strengths for only one week can increase your happiness for up to 6 months!

To give you an example of how this works, here are my signature strengths and how I put him to work and my job.

  • Humility – When completing a project, I like to openly acknowledge people who helped me get the work done. As a team member, I give kudos to them for a job well done. As a manager, I make sure other managers know who on my staff played a part in the project.
  • Honesty – As I work with people over a period of time, they come to know me as an honest person. As I earn their trust, they come to me for my opinions, trust me with confidential information, and rely on me to call things how I see them.
  • Spirituality – This character strength includes having an optimistic attitude. So, when people come to me discouraged, I encourage them, and offer to partner with them in getting past whatever is pulling them down. I also make a habit of praying for the people I work with during my personal prayer time.
  • Perseverance – I don’t give up. When I was younger and my body could withstand the pounding, I enjoyed distance running. I approach my work in a similar way. I enjoy the projects that can take months or years to complete. I keep going at a steady pace until the work is done. My colleagues have come to know me as dependable, steady, and trustworthy.
  • Forgiveness – When people I trust disappoint me, I have only two options: resentment or forgiveness. I’ve learned that for me forgiveness is the best option. Resentment stops our growth and keeps us living in the past. As I’ve developed this character strength, it’s helped me to work better on teams and as a manager. People want to work with me, because they know I don’t hold unrealistic expectations. They know I won’t get stuck on their faults and failures.

Your Next Steps

Enter your first name and email address in the form below. Then press the “Get Access” button to access my free guide 72 Ways to Flex Your Character Strengths. The guide explains how to discover your signature strengths using the free VIA Character Strengths Personality Test.

I encourage you to find a friend or ask your spouse to do it with you, team up to encourage each other along the way.

Next use my guide to help you and your partner start practicing your signature strengths at work. The guide gives you examples of  how  to use your signature strengths. With a little creativity, you’ll also come up with your own signature strength exercises.

You’ll be happier at work–and everywhere else–as you transform your job, or career into a calling.

Jon Beaty

I'm a counselor, writer and believer in the power of God to help you thrive in your marriage and family. I live with my family, a small herd of Boer goats, and thousands of honeybees near Portland, Oregon.

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