Lessons Learned About Career Happiness From a (Former) Burnt Out Road Warrior

How To Be Successful And Have a Life Too

You are a road warrior. A real trooper. Work comes first. You go where your job takes you — Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alaska, New York, Germany — anywhere and everywhere.

But now, you’re starting to hate your job.

Traveling used to be cool, that is before it became a way of life.

Now, between being away and working on weekends to whittle down the stacks that grew while you were away, you’re getting more and more burned out.

Birthday parties, family events, having fun on weekends, are nonexistent. Having a life is taking a back seat to work and you resent it.

You’re wondering, “how did I get stuck in this never-ending mess?”

More importantly, how do you get out, and get some happiness in your career AND life?

I’ve been there. For me it took a life-threatening injury — falling down 18 steps and almost breaking my neck on the way to a business meeting — that taught me how to start having a life AND a successful career.

Here’s what I learned and how I made the shift. You can do it too.

You Can Have a Life As a Road Warrior

Being a road warrior means lots of time spent in airports, eating grab-n-go food, and sitting in cramped airline seats hunched over a laptop. Being on the road means your time is not your own.

Being away from home so much can create stress, can make it hard on relationships, and can make it almost impossible to create, and manage a life beyond work and travel.

But if you believe life on the road means you can’t have a life too, then you’re really trapped.

Some commonly held beliefs about life on the road are

I have to …

Be available 24/7

Get it all done

Do it all myself

Put healthy eating and exercising aside because it’s impossible to do

Party with clients until all hours to my detriment

Your turn _____________________

Why do those beliefs ring true? Because that’s what’s expected when you’re a road warrior. But expected by whom?

Making a list of your beliefs and assumptions about work is a good way to start realizing what mindsets are keeping you stuck.

A simple exercise like identifying your beliefs can get you in touch with what, or who, is restricting your lifestyle and what you’re willing to do about it.

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” — Napoleon Hill

Do the Right Thing For You

Some people travel well and others don’t.

If you want not only a life, but to have more happiness in your career, it’s important to evaluate whether the path you’ve chosen, or the work you’re doing, is right for you.

Greg, an experienced road warrior and extravert, loved talking to people. He’d sit next to someone on an airplane and become their best friend by the end of the flight. All of the people and activity associated with traveling energized him.

Laura was an introvert. She had her nose in a book as soon as she hit the airplane seat. The crowds and chaos of traveling had her heading for a nap as soon as she got to her destination. She was recharging while Greg, was exploring his destination and setting up dinner with as many people as possible.

A lot like Laura, when I decided it was time to have a life beyond just work, I started exploring how I could change the way I was working and began looking at different career alternatives as well.

One thing I did was to start sharing travel with people who worked for me. They got some good experience. They were able to build important relationships with clients. I stayed home and rebuilt important relationships with myself and with family. The organization got a cross-trained staff.

If you don’t travel well and are ready for a change, it’s time to start exploring new options.

Say No To Regrets And Resentments

A byproduct of business travel is losing out on things — birthday parties, kid’s sporting events, family get togethers, etc. Missing out can lead to feelings of resentment and regret.

Feelings of regret can come from wishing there was a different outcome. Feelings of powerlessness, guilt, frustration, and blaming your situation on others, can impact your well-being and life satisfaction.

In her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying (Hay House, 2012) Bronnie Ware, a caretaker working with the dying, writes that a common regret expressed by her patients was, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” For them it was too late to make a change.

For you, what can you do now to make sure you’re not living a life of regret?

Regrets can easily become resentments. In his blog article for Psychology Today, 8 Ways to Work Through Anger and Resentment, Dan Mager, MSW, defines resentment as “the re-experiencing of past injustices — real or perceived — and the old feelings of anger connected to them. Resentments form when people get angry toward a person, institution, or situation, and steadfastly hold on to that anger.”

If you resent that you “have to” travel all the time, that others seem to have more fun, freedom or downtime than you do, that your boss or organization is keeping you from having a life, it’s time to realize that you have control over how you live your life so you can make some new, empowered choices.

Deciding Is Key

If you do feel that being on the road is ruining your life, and you know you need to change it, but you’re not sure how to do it, or you’re procrastinating making a change, consider this …

New ideas and creative solutions have a greater chance of presenting themselves once you’ve made a decision to let go of what’s working for you.

I’m not advocating that you quit your job. A positive change may come from making small adjustments in your beliefs about what is possible, or in how you do your work.

When I decided it was time to create a better life, new ideas and options presented themselves. I started evaluating whether in-person meetings were necessary. I analyzed the frequency of travel. I explored how work could be done on-line instead of on site.

Once you realize every event in your life has taken place because of a decision you’ve made along the way, you can be more empowered to start taking back control of your life by making some alternative decisions.

Just Say No (The Right Way)

To be effective in making the changes you want to make in your life and in your travel schedule, you have to consider not only your needs, but the needs of others.

When I made a proposal to my boss for less travel, I took great care to consider the impact on my workload, on the clients I was working with, and the on the needs of my boss, and the organization.

When you know how to say no with a proposal that benefits everyone concerned, you’re more likely to get buy in from others, to get what you want, and to have a good outcome for all concerned.

Don’t Delay. Start Doing Those Things You Want To Do

What makes you a successful road warrior is your commitment to doing your best on the job.

By considering your beliefs and assumptions about work and what’s required of you, by evaluating whether being a road warrior suits who you are, by deciding that you want both, a happier career and life, you’ll be open to creating new possibilities.

Before you know it, your regrets will be fewer and there won’t be room for resentment.

You’ll have figured out ways to integrate your work with your life. You’ll bring more balance into a whole life.

As Bronnie Ware wrote in The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, “We spend so much time making plans for the future, often depending on things coming at a later date to assure our happiness assuming that we have all the time in the world, when all we ever have is our life today.”

If you’re a road warrior who’s ready for less burn out and more career and life happiness, start now.

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