What’s the Source of Your Sunday Night Blues?

by Jun 5, 2012Creative Thinking13 comments

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?