Between work reviews, New Year’s goals and cramming every holiday activity under the sun into a few short weeks, who isn’t a little stressed at the end of the year? The good news is, whether you’re feeling burnout at work or at home — or both — you can turn it around.
That’s the message behind happiness expert Gretchen Rubin’s latest book “The Four Tendencies,” in which she identifies four personality traits and how each determines how you work toward happiness, health and productivity. You’ll land in one of the four based on how you respond to expectations (this 10-minute quiz spells it out, too).
The Four Tendencies
Upholders: You respond well to both inner and outer expectations. For example, you hold yourself accountable to meet personal New Year’s resolutions, just as you readily work toward professional goals set by your boss and company.
Questioners: You question all outer expectations until you’re able to justify that it’s not arbitrary, inefficient or irrational from your point of view. You turn an external expectation into an internal one, which is more important to you, and you work toward it on your own terms.
Obligers: You’re able to meet others’ expectations of you, but struggle to set and keep your own personal goals. You find it easier to accomplish things if someone else is holding you accountable.
Rebels: You resist all expectations whether internal or external. You do only things you want to do and in your own way.
While you might think Upholders would experience burnout first — you can only deal with so much pressure from both yourself and others — that’s not the case. Because Upholders find both their own and others’ expectations equally important, they can better align what’s expected of them with what will fulfill them most. Rebels are least likely to experience burnout since they do only what feels right to them, and Questioners avoid it by turning an external motivator inward.
However, Obligers are most likely to put others’ needs ahead of their own, which can make them feel unfulfilled in their work — a leading cause of burnout. And this feeling isn’t uncommon: A 2014 Gallup report found 51% of employees didn’t feel invested in their day-to-day.
How to Avoid Burnout
Since Obligers place the most weight in the expectations of others, Rubin suggests they turn this need for accountability in their favor: Consider whether a present task will benefit their future selves. "If I look at my future self and say, 'Well right now Gretchen feels a lot of pressure to say yes to her boss, but future Gretchen is going to be really disappointed that I didn't stand up for myself, so I have to say no now because I don't want to let down future Gretchen,'" Rubin explained to CNBC Make It.
This can be especially helpful as you think bigger-picture when it comes to your job. As you approach year-end evaluations, consider what responsibilities and projects would help you draw more meaning from your role at the end of the day — and how that feeds into your company’s expectations and goals. What can you do for your team that’ll make you proud in the years to come?
Considering your future self is a science-backed strategy to keep people motivated in the long-term — because it’s especially tough when you don’t see an immediate payoff for completing a task at work, putting an extra $50 into your savings account or turning down another round of holiday drinks with friends. So consider creating opportunities for yourself and act on decisions that’ll help you succeed in the long run, and you can mitigate feelings of burnout or wasted energy. Your future self will thank you.