Why can’t we see it coming?

A while ago I met a man who suffers from burnout. Not the kind that causes headaches and palpitations as a rather friendly reminder that you need to slow down. No, he had the kind that knocks you down, drives over you several times and leaves you totally exhausted and, in his case, with a complete loss of short-term memory. For six years he has been struggling to recover from this, and he still isn’t back on his feet yet.

After meeting this guy I ran into no less than three other persons who for several reasons are completely stressed out. Being the incorrigible, starry-eyed idealist I am, I immediately pounced on them to share my newly gained knowledge and insights, eager to make them aware of – and preferably save them from – the dangers surrounding them. And you know what? They didn’t want to listen!

“No, that won’t happen to me! If I can just finish this project/find a new job/get paid better/get rid of this colleague/client/boss….. If he/she just changes their attitude/starts listening to me/takes  responsibility/stops making my life miserable….”

What mechanism is at work here? Why can’t we see it coming and why can’t we apply the brakes before it’s too late? The answer might lie in the fact that we are convinced in most cases that our situation is entirely due to external factors: the company, the boss, the clients, the projects, the colleagues, the husband, the wife, the friends… all of these are factors over which we don’t have any control at all. That makes us feel powerless and frustrated and can, in the end, literally make us sick.

So what would happen if we stopped letting other people or circumstances control our lives? If we were to realize that it’s not so much the situation that causes pain and frustration, but rather the way we deal with it? If we understood that we always have a choice: to stay or to go, to accept or reject, to give less or take more, to go into decline or to stand up and fight back?

There will always be that new ‘unfair boss’, ‘mean colleague’, ‘manipulative client’, ‘lazy husband’, ‘irritating neighbor’ or ‘jealous friend’; why should we let them take the lead in our lives and give them the power to dictate how we feel?

My new friend learned all of the above the hard way. I sincerely hope that his experience can be a lesson for all of us and prevent us from having to go through a similar situation, in order to make us understand that only we ourselves can draw the line.

Thank you Christer, for sharing your story with me!