How monks approach burnout: This writer thinks it might work for us too

Jonathan Malesic found himself burning out from a stable, secure job that he loved. He says that experience taught him everyone can burn out — and that changing our work-obsessed culture has a lot to do with solidarity.
After suffering burnout, writer Jonathan Malesic visited a monastery in New Mexico to learn alternative ways of thinking about work.

"You get over it."

That's what one monk told Jonathan Malesic when he asked what the monks do if their short workday ends without completing all of their tasks.

"Getting over it struck me as an important spiritual discipline that these Benedictine monks must practice, and I think that we can stand to practice out here in the secular world," Malesic told Tapestry host, Mary Hynes.

Malesic is on a mission to change the work-obsessed culture he believes has taken root in North America. It's a culture where work isn't just a way to pay the bills — it's a way to define our lives.

After burning out from his dream job as a tenured university professor, Malesic traveled to a monastery in the New Mexican desert to explore different relationships to work.

Malesic said the monks live their lives according to the 1500-year-old Rule of St. Benedict. Their purpose is to pray, and they limit themselves to three or four hours of work a day, something that for many people, seems unimaginable.

Malesic said the fact that he experienced burnout in a stable, secure job he loved,  is telling.

"When you do a job you love, you throw yourself into it. You find it very easy to let your boundaries between work and the rest of your life erode," he said.

Malesic stressed that burnout is universal and something anyone can experience. In other words, it's not just for millennials.

But according to Malesic, the fact that so many people experience burnout might be part of the solution.

"The fact that I can burn out, and my co-workers can burn out, and my bosses can burn out, and my clients can burn out, means that we have a basis for solidarity," said Malesic.

"We have a basis for creating better institutions that can be more humane and can prevent burnout in the future."


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