As I continue to coach clients on advancing in their careers and achieving their goals, I have come across a common hurdle that they have all faced in their careers: the overwhelming feeling of burnout.

Almost every person in leadership or business owner I interact with has felt it. Burnout occurs when a high amount of job-related stress leads to lowered professional achievement, a decrease in personal health, and a loss of self-identity. People at all levels are working so hard that they barely have time for themselves and their families. They are so consumed by work that they don’t take moments to pause, breathe, and reflect on their lives. 

This reminds me of my mentor, Heidi. She was a well-respected director who approached work with laser-focus and was the picture perfect example of a dedicated employee. She made a huge effort to consistently work hard, overachieve goals and targets, and take little to no vacations. Heidi was a well-oiled machine and a great asset to the company.

Many years after Heidi retired, I received a text from her with a picture. I opened the attachment and, to my surprise and slight confusion, the image was of an intricate spider-web. Its threads were hanging on tree leaves in hues of green, orange, brown, and red, and the parabolic web looked less like a deathly trap for an insect and more like a stock-photo of nature’s woven tapestry. It was magnificent.

Her text read: 

“If I was not retired, I would have most likely walked past this spider-web twice a day going to work and coming back and I would have never noticed it.”

For thirty years, Heidi continued to climb, continued to work hard, and did not pause to “smell the roses.” It was only after retiring that she was shocked by the importance of life and was finally forced to stop and enjoy even minuscule moments of beauty. 

So many of us are very ambitious but may have found ourselves slipping away in our pursuit of greatness. The last thing I want for anyone is for them to retire without having paused to gaze at the beauty that surrounds us or without having fostered good relationships with our families and friends. There is more to life than work, and it is imperative to recognize this and take time for ourselves. Let us continue to reflect, give our brains and bodies well-deserved breaks, and do so without feeling guilty. Who knows what spider-webs we’ve overlooked along the way?


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