The world is a much smaller place than it was decades ago, and instant, worldwide communication is easier than before. Opportunities are now open for people all over the world. One of the unintended consequences though is its effect on our mental health. Stress and anxiety levels are high not just in adults, but increasingly in younger people as well.

One serious consequence of this stress is a phenomenon called burnout. In this state, you feel constantly exhausted, lack all motivation to work or think, and constantly experience negative feelings or emotions. This is the result when stress and anxiety isn’t managed or relieved over a period of time.

There have been many studies and articles about what causes burnout, but the best definition that I found was:

Burnout happens when there is an imbalance between the efforts we make and the rewards that we receive.

Which, if you experienced firsthand the early signs of burnout, is what really goes inside. This makes one think like:

I worked very hard on that project. Why do I still feel so useless?

My boss and coworkers do not appreciate all the work that I am doing.

I try to finish everything before the deadline, but they keep piling stuff on me. It’s not fair!

We get stressed because the rewards we are getting from work feel much less than the effort we had done. When this happens for a long period of time, our minds try to protect us and goes in the opposite direction: we lose motivation, we become depressed and lethargic, and become cynical.


What do we do then? A useful thought process that I use is to divide things and events into Life and Non-Life. Things, events, and activities that matter in your life as a whole are called Life, while the opposite are called Non-Life.

Things that are Non-Life are those that seem to matter in the present, but do not even register after 5 or 10 years. These as the things you were too focused on or prioritized in the past, but that you have mostly forgotten today.

The projects you worked very hard in? Companies you have built? Do they still matter to you after a decade passes? Probably not.

But then you say, “I cherished those moments! Doing things with my former colleagues shaped who I am today!“. So Non-Life things are important?

If you think about it, we cherish those memories not because of the things we did, but because we did it with people that are important to us (at least during that time).

What is in your memory are the things you did with other people and not work itself!

Work then falls under Non-Life; but your colleagues, friends and the things you did with them are under Life.


Which brings us back to the topic of stress and burnout. It happens when we do more of the Non-Life than Life things. Non-Life things are like junk food: they may satisfy you in the short term, but in reality, they are just made up of fluff and garbage. It distracts you from what is important, what really is you are meant to do.

We don’t get the “reward”, because what we are doing does not really matter in the long term! Apart from a (potential) financial setback, our work do not really contribute to life. And the more we put into work, the greater the gap between our efforts and rewards, and the more likely we are to get stressed.

Do more Life stuff

You worked hard all your life in order to achieve your goals. But when you reached them, what did you really get? Did you become happier? Are you having second thoughts if everything was worth it?

Why, in all your successes and achievements in life, are you still not satisfied? What do we do then?

To correct the balance that is clearly lacking in our lives, we need to filter our priorities and activities based on what is Life, and minimize Non-Life as much as possible.

In short, we choose Life.

  • Life is what happens outside of work
  • It stays with you
  • They are the things that you remember doing that puts a smile on your face
  • It is being with people who will mourn your death
  • This is the reward you have been looking for
  • It makes our existence worthwhile

Photo by Jill Heyer on Unsplash

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