• Quill Team

Burnout and Transitions: The Cycle of Renewal



By Leya Aronoff


Whether in college or during your career, you are bound to feel burned out. Burnout is an emotional state during which a person feels stressed and a loss of fulfillment due to being overworked for prolonged periods of time. Sarah Smith Orr, the previous Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute and owner of Smith Orr & Associates, describes The Cycle of Renewal, developed by The Hudson Institute, in 4 phases. It applies to individuals, teams, and organizations.


Phase 1: Go For It

During this phase, a person tries to achieve new goals, usually feeling a sense of fulfillment and excitement. For example, a new intern may aspire to work directly with key clients. For a team of researchers, Phase 1 starts when they are executing their plan and discovering new findings. For organizations, it could look like selling new products or services.


Phase 2: Doldrums

By this phase the excitement of something new has dulled down. The work is getting old and feels less fulfilling. Perhaps this person has been in the same role for a long time without a change in rank or company. If a person is in the Doldrums for too long, he or she will experience burnout from doing the same, monotonous work for a long period of time. Similarly, if the work of a team is no longer supporting relevant results or their research becomes obsolete, then they will feel a sense of burnout. Additionally, an organization’s sales can start declining due to its products/services going out of style.


Phase 3: Cocooning

To get out of the Doldrums stage, someone needs to transition into Cocooning. In this phase, a person takes some time to reflect and heal. This could look like a person taking vacation days to introspect and update on their goals, or quitting a job and considering new career paths. A team or an organization could take a break and reassess its objectives on a retreat and brainstorm new research questions or products.


Phase 4: Getting Ready

In this phase, a person is trying whatever new plan he/she has decided to do in the Cocooning stage. At times, he or she may fail, but they will ultimately learn from their mistakes and figure out what is the real next step for him or her. Once he or she figures out what they want to do, then they will transition back to Phase 1, where he or she restarts the process over again. For instance, an individual may test out new career paths by exploring different jobs. For a team of researchers, they can start to explore these new questions with a literature review and preliminary research. Only after they figure out which research questions are worthwhile can they can return to Phase 1. An organization can enter into Phase 4, where the organization is testing new products and services. Once they have a new plan, they can implement it and succeed once again in Phase 1.


If you are experiencing burnout take a real hard look at your life. Reflect on your individual journey, your team’s journey, your organization's journey, or any other journey of which you may be taking part. Only when you honestly reflect and figure out what brings fulfillment will you begin to get over feeling burned out.

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