Have you ever been burned out? It seems that this is a state that many encounter in the course of their careers. You know the signs; constant tiredness, depression, anxiety, irritability, loss of motivation, feelings of being overwhelmed, etc. Fewer recognize the related, but opposite state known as bore out. Many of the symptoms are the same, but the underlying causes are different.
The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly has developed a model that explains the difference between these two syndromes. As you can see from the chart below, burnout and bore out are both a function of the relationship between the amount of skills we have in a given area and the level of challenge we face in our day to day lives. If I am over-challenged in relation to my abilities then I am in danger of suffering burnout. Conversely, if I am under-challenged in relation to abilities then I am in danger of suffering bore out.
I find this model useful for me in relationship to managing my own life and also when considering how to challenge those I am responsible for. This applies to the workplace, the home, in the sports arena or in a hobby. The key is to find the right balance between challenges and abilities so that I am in the flow. And when I am in the flow I need to look for ways to increase my challenges and abilities with respect to one another, not allowing one to out strip the other.
How is the balance between challenges and abilities in your life?