In a recent tête-à-tête with my boss, Mariette DiChristina, we mused over what motivates us in life and work. She shared a quote from George Bernard Shaw: “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one … the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
The words lingered in my thoughts as I wrapped up our cover story, on burnout. We tend to associate burnout with exhaustion, yet a clash between one's values and the demands of a job is equally burdensome. Psychologists Michael P. Leiter and Christina Maslach explore the causes of and remedies for workplace dissatisfaction in “Conquering Burnout.” To once again view a job as meaningful, the authors suggest trying to improve its social atmosphere, among other things.
Shaw's words compelled me to articulate my own “mighty” purpose, which is to educate and inspire readers through powerful stories. Yet I can lose sight of that goal when life's inevitable hurdles trip me up, triggering that “selfish little clod of ailments” known as frustration, anger and fear. Psychologist and editor Steve Ayan offers advice for defusing negative sentiments early. He explains the five stages through which emotions escalate in “How to Control Your Feelings—and Live Happily Ever After.”
For young adults on the autism spectrum, learning to cope with anxiety is a key step toward entering the workforce. They often struggle to land jobs, yet extra training might be all they need to pursue a rewarding career. In “Autism Grows Up,” writer Jennifer Richler profiles a leading program that is helping some individuals gain employment.
The themes in this edition were timely for me, in that I recently faced a tough career decision myself. One of the joys of working here is that nearly every day I learn something relevant to my own life. Yet my path is now leading me elsewhere, so this is my final issue at the magazine's helm. I will stay on as a contributing editor, but more important, I will remain Scientific American Mind's biggest fan. I eagerly await whatever the team dreams up next.