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A friend, let’s call him Carl, told me he’d seen my videos on career change and resonated with the concept of the Sunday Night Blues.

“Everyone thinks I have the best job,” he confided. “People ask for advice, wanting to know how they can eventually have a position like mine. I want to tell them the truth, but I can’t. I don’t think they’d believe me anyway.”

The truth was that every Sunday night, a feeling of dread descended. He wanted to stop time, to delay perhaps indefinitely, the work week ahead. Not only did he feel anxious and irritable that his free time was coming to a close, but he was confused.

Why couldn’t he enjoy his job like everyone expected him to?

In fact, he felt particularly ungrateful because there was a lot he liked about his job. But none of those positives were apparently strong enough to prevent the Sunday night blues.

And so he came to me for advice on how to change careers, even though the thought of leaving his “dream job” pained him.

Same symptoms, different solutions

Had it been anyone else, I probably would have given them a hug, told them I completely understood, and started to coach them through my six steps to career change.

The problem was that I was as enamored with his job as everyone else.

So I asked him something I normally take for granted in other clients. I said, “What do you think is the source of your Sunday night blues?”

Had someone asked me that question as I toyed with leaving my career in military science, I might have pointed to the rampant organizational inefficiencies or the mismatch in core values. Maybe I would have revealed that all the great co-workers in the world can’t compensate for not doing what you love (in my case, writing).

I don’t know what I expected Carl to say, but he surprised me.

“I worry that I’ve forgotten something,” he told me. “I’m overseeing many different people, projects, and innovations. When I get a chance to step away from the chaos over the weekend, I’m afraid I won’t be able to come back and keep up the juggling. One day, one of those balls is going to fall and I’m going to hate myself for it.”

I was stunned.

Not because this obviously accomplished man was haunted by a fear of failure. As a fellow overachiever, I understood that well. It was that Carl’s problems were very different from mine.

Carl didn’t need a new career. He needed an executive assistant.

Is the solution to your problem simpler than you think?

Like many companies, the administrative support where Carl worked had been slashed with the economic downturn while his professional responsibilities increased. Suddenly he was crafting strategy for a large division while simultaneously booking his own travel around the world. He wasn’t just juggling three big projects, but hundreds of details. He was quickly burning out.

What really had Carl down was that he felt he didn’t have any options to solve his core problem.

We spent an hour brainstorming how he could get organized and get some help. He felt better.

I don’t know if those solutions will solve his problem in the long run, but I know they’re easier to implement than a career makeover. Too many of us, myself included, don’t spend enough time getting the root cause of our pain. We just want it to stop, as quickly as possible, which sometimes leads us to make things more complicated than they need to be. As Rollo May said

It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.

What about you?  What’s the core problem you need to solve in your career?

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13 Responses to What’s the Source of Your Sunday Night Blues?

    • On
    • June 5, 2012 at 11:37 am
    • Danielle
    • Said...

    I knew what I needed or lacked in my old job. The autonomy to make the descisions and the authority to enforce those decisions. When my old company reorganized me, they took that away and refused to give it back. I was stuck feeling like I had to juggle everyone elses schedules and job duties without having any way to say no. Ultimately, the reason I left was two-fold. I hated being an underling when I knew more about what I was doing than my boss and I wanted to do more editing and writing.
    My new job is great. I love Mondays now. I look forward to stressing over how to write the Monthly Updates and engage my readers and I am responsible for me and not anyone else.

    • And I couldn’t be happier for you, Danielle. You’re a wonderful success story of the No Regrets Career Academy! :)

    • On
    • June 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm
    • Patricia
    • Said...

    Wow. That didn’t end up where I thought it was going to. But very good.

    A few days ago I read an article on productivity (that I paid $20 for – and the MAIN thing of the article – sas

    When I read that – I was like – yeah, sure . . . I should do that. . . right. Then I thought I paid $20 for this – that I really couldn’t afford – maybe I should try the advice.


    It totally improved my productivity

    How many times do I reject simple solutions to big problems? Hmmm . . .

    • I love that response, Patricia. Both that I got to sneak in a surprise and that you discovered the sometimes disproportionate value of simplicity. If you’re not already reading Zen Habits, I highly recommend it!

    • On
    • June 6, 2012 at 6:04 am
    • Chris Lappin
    • Said...

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post.
    When I had unfulfilling jobs I dreaded Mondays.
    When I ran a company I hated Mondays because it meant going to work & leaving my two young sons to be looked after by someone else.
    Recently, when I haven’t felt ‘successful’ I’ve been scared of Mondays as it’s easy to hide away from my financial responsibilities as a single Mum during the weekend.
    I’ve found that when I’m really tired the fears seem worse. As a solopreneur what’s helped is asking myself some really useful questions, as you did with Carl, & then writing down my answers. I often head to the beach near where I live with a pen & paper to try & clear my head & write stuff down. Facing my issues helps me break them down so they seems more manageable & less scary! Writing this has helped me feel a little …. calmer. But nothing beats a really great night’s sleep!!

    • SO agree with you, Chris. When I was younger, I resented when my mom tried to solve all my problems with a cup of tea and sending me to bed early. Now I think she’s a genius. :)

        • On
        • June 14, 2012 at 4:58 am
        • Chris Lappin
        • Said...

        You see Mom does know best!! Mine did the same. I am now repeating the Circle of Life & doing the same with my sons!!

    • On
    • June 6, 2012 at 5:11 pm
    • jonathan vissering
    • Said...

    My favorite part of the blog was the quote about the irony of human nature to run when we feel lost. I see this in my students daily. When frustrated, they want to finish something, or move on, rather than tackle the obstacle or pause on the journey to see what is working and what isn’t to actually learn and be cognizant of our knowledge and deficits. Obviously, being in a position of discomfort can be frustrating, but I believe if we allow ourselves to change the way we perceive the world, we often reduce our anxieties and reduce our chances of feeling overwhelmed. I too think that your mother had a touch of genius when she would recommend tea and an early night. Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest, self-imposed restrictions on us all! A good night’s sleep can aid in increased patience, tolerance, clarity of thought, positive mood, and I could go on and on, but my ranting is probably driving everybody nuts! So happy you are happy Jen. Keep fighting the good fight and helping others to pursue their dreams.

    • Thanks, Jon. Thanks for your nice note. Means a lot to me. :)

  1. Hmm… wonder what this dream job is! I know mine includes having a personal assistant.. and maybe a masseuse 😉

    I like this idea though — it’s really an issue of perspective! Maybe you don’t have to change your entire scenario or environment, just give it a little adjustment and things will run smoothly again. I think I can apply this in my own life… Thanks Jen!

    • Kasandra, your comment really made me laugh. Yes, my dream job definitely includes a masseuse!

      Perspective is everything. Not only does it help you see your own situation with more clarity, but it’s actually the most valuable thing we have. Skills are a dime a dozen. Only perspective is truly a unique selling point.

  2. Hi Jennifer,

    This is great. We used to call it the “Sunday Surlies.” By 4pm on Sunday afternoon everyone would get this heaviness about them. Not good.

    I think you made a great point when you said, “Too many of us…don’t spend enough time getting the root cause of our pain. We just want it to stop, as quickly as possible, which sometimes leads us to make things more complicated than they need to be.”

    I can be an over analyzer, the former counselor and therapist in me I guess, but there’s so much light in simplicity and not thinking the harder way is the right way.



  3. wow, I’m exactly the opposite — I always look forward to Mondays as a clean slate, & chance to start again & jump in with a fresh set of eyes. Interesting to see this gentleman’s perspective — overlooking the obvious — not seeing the forest for all the trees. I wonder how many simple ideas I overlook throughout the course of the day? Thanks for this thought-provoking piece.