Brown-out: what if you changed your life?

Brown out: wat als jij je leven zou veranderen?

Burn-out, bore-out, brown-out, these unfortunately well-known terms all refer to burnout. Although they do not have the same causes and components, they are nonetheless evidence of an era when work and individuality merge. They also sound the alarm, telling sufferers that it’s high time to put work back in its rightful place, and ask themselves what they want from their lives (both professional and personal).

Brown-out in particular is about the meaning we give to our work. Like burn-out or bore-out, this is an occupational illness characterized by exhaustion due to a loss of meaning. People suffering from brown-out experience a “downturn” because they no longer understand the meaning of their daily tasks, their usefulness in the company, and more broadly in society, and find themselves performing repetitive, pointless tasks experienced as absurd. It’s imperative not to get stuck in this downward spiral, which can eventually lead to burn-out. The challenge is to rediscover lost meaning, and to do this we need to re-examine our skills, desires and aspirations, even if this means completely changing our lives and retraining.

The evil of an age: reinterpreting the value of work

In his book Le brown-out: quand le travail n’a plus aucun sens, François Baumann explains that our society is undoubtedly the first to seek meaning in work. In his view, work has gone from being a function to becoming a project and the foundation of our society. “That’s why we need to go beyond the simple notion of work, by specifying, for example, the need to take on a task, carry out a project, or create something new. In all cases, it’s essential to find meaning in what we do,” he writes. According to the doctor, brown-out is a disease of our self-seeking society, where everything is a permanent emergency and everyone is stubbornly burning up their own resources.

How can you give meaning to your work? What is a meaningful activity? First of all, a job is meaningful if the person doing it feels respected and recognized. Honesty, credibility and courage are also part of the values needed to bring meaning to one’s business. Finally, the notions of pleasure and interest, or even usefulness (for oneself or for others), are also very important in giving meaning to one’s work. “The pleasure of working, of carrying out a task well done and beyond reproach, is a considerable value, because it will help to “renarcissise” the individual and give him the desire to commit himself further and to undertake. “confirms François Baumann.

How to recognize brown-out?

If, in the context of their work, “a person can no longer let their characteristics and values express themselves, they lose the very reasons for their activity, and everything that makes their work, and even their life, meaningful” describes François Baumann. But when you’ve lost your sense of purpose, work loses interest and becomes nothing more than a long list of tasks to be completed. The worker then loses all motivation and is content to carry out his tasks automatically, without deriving any pleasure from them. It’s called brown-out.

Dr. Baumann cites a number of symptoms of brown-out, including: being constantly active but not feeling any pleasure, a loss of interest in once interesting tasks, a loss of motivation, work piling up and a tendency to procrastinate, the feeling that there’s no way out of the situation, a tendency to withdraw into silence, minimum service but no more, temper tantrums, extreme fatigue, and so on. We recognize in this description certain characteristics of the quiet-quitting often described in today’s media. But this is more than just a symbolic resignation. All these symptoms are evidence of a deep malaise that can lead to burn-out.

Brown-out and the quest for meaning: what if it was time to change your life?

In a way, brown-out, like its cousins bore-out and burn-out, is a kind of alarm signal, a way our body and mind have found to tell us to react. Here, brown-out can be understood as a sign that you’re no longer where you want to be, and that it’s time to move on. That’s why it’s so important not to get sucked into the downward spiral of exhaustion and demotivation. For this to happen, the worker who suffers must find meaning again.

But how? Firstly, by re-examining their aspirations and expectations of their work. In his book, François Baumann suggests pressing pause and taking stock of his career. He invites his readers to ask themselves the following questions: “Where do I stand? Do I have the same concerns as when I started? What has changed so much that I’ve had to reconsider? Is what I’m doing still useful, and can it still fully satisfy my expectations? Are my work activities still in line with my expectations?”

Secondly, the person in search of a new meaning will have to think about the next step in his or her career. To do this, he needs to ask himself what he really likes to do, what he knows how to do, what he can do, and which activities are meaningful to him and to others. We then join the notion of ikigai, a Japanese concept that places personal fulfillment at the heart of individual performance. To answer these questions, a little introspection may be enough, but it can be useful to get in touch with a professional who can help you find the answers through a skills assessment.

Once they’ve taken a step back, brown-out sufferers may find solutions in their current jobs, but they may also realize that it’s time to change their lives. This is why retraining is a perfect remedy for brown-out, as it gives new meaning to a professional career.

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