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Burned out worker seeks motivation

DEAR AMY: I am a 52-year-old administrative assistant who is burned out. I take full responsibility for not having a career area that I find interesting. Returning to college studying business did not go well and I had to drop out. Career counseling has not worked. I am lost about what I should do about this. I would love to find a meaningful solution to the situation that I alone have gotten myself into. -- Lost and Confused

DEAR LOST: You are not your job. You are the sum total of everything in your life.

Sometimes, if you feel stuck or burned out, it helps to look outside your current situation and make a deliberate effort to look for inspiration.

If you are able to do this, it should lead to an increase in your energy and self-esteem. Group exercise classes, teaching children and performing music do it for me -- volunteering at your local food bank and attending gallery nights or other cultural happenings might do it for you.

You might find inspiration by scrolling through some TED talks -- inspiring short lectures conducted by innovators, scientists, and creative thinkers. One I think might appeal to you is "The Puzzle of Motivation," by Dan Pink. You can browse through lectures at

DEAR AMY: For eight years I have been close to my ex-wife's husband, "Jim." He is generally a very good man, who has been good to my son. Our friendship has been tested many times over the years. Three years ago Jim decided to leave his job. He was angry that they were going to discipline him, so he chose to leave. After six months of looking for only executive-level employment, Jim looked to me for help. Being the co-dependent, overly sympathetic person I am, I offered him a position as an executive within my own company. Huge mistake! Flash-forward two and a half years, and he is now divorcing my ex-wife. Jim's demeanor toward me has also changed over this same period. He struggles accepting any type of criticism from me, and often accuses me of holding the job I've given him over his head. After a great deal of thought, and many feelings of being taken advantage of, I feel it's time to let go of this "friendship." However, unlike other toxic relationships where a person can move on through various means, I work with this dude, and work with him 40 hours a week! I struggle setting boundaries in the first place (obviously!), how do I let go of this friendship, while continuing to work with this guy every day? -- Struggling

DEAR STRUGGLING: Given everything you say about "Jim," his behavior is not conducive to maintaining a friendship, long term, so the solution to your problem is first to accept that you two have an extremely complicated relationship, with many overlapping skeins. Letting go means that you will acknowledge that he had an important role in your life and has done some things well, but now he is choosing through some very obvious behavior to separate. Let him.

So, boundary-crosser, you may need to hire a couple of invisible crossing guards to help you though this transection. You should concentrate on avoiding personal interactions, don't get sucked in to personal conversations, and keep your communications solely along professional lines. Be cordial, noncommittal, and train yourself not to react.

DEAR AMY: There are times when it's great to be a guy; the best is when the subject is weddings. "Torn," a woman (naturally), is agonizing over inviting a co-worker and her disagreeable spouse, while her husband-to-be shrugs his shoulders. We guys tend to think that the focus of the event is simply two people pledging love, commitment, and all that stuff, and are mystified by the politics of guest lists and all the rest. Who cares who's sitting in the seventh row or took an extra portion of wedding cake? I didn't even tell my boss I was getting married when I asked for a few days off. -- Harry

DEAR HARRY: There are times when it is just plain smart to act more like a guy. Thank you.

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