Years ago I was interviewed by Fast Company Magazine on just this subject and yesterday, responding to a thread in a coaching forum I frequent this came back to me. Many of my clients don’t bring me in because they want to get a promotion or learn to be leaders, rather they bring me in to work with them because they’ve gotten the promotion, are leaders, and are extremely unhappy because for them the haunting questions are “Is this all there is? What now?”
Here they are, successful, at the top of the ladder….a place they’ve strived to attain all their working lives. They have the house, the vacation house or two, make six or seven figure salaries, have the cars, can take time off when they want, are the decision makers and…..
Now they have no vision for their future, no dream to work towards. They’re there. They have few if any allies in the workplace as they’re as high up as one can go. Their friends aren’t interested in hearing how miserable they are. After all, here’s a person who has reached his or her highest dream, is there….the picture of success, something few ever attain. And they’re miserable? Who would be interested in listening to that when they’re struggling to pay the bills, squeeze in a few days holiday here and there and then have to figure out a way to pay for it the rest of the year. They’re going to want to hear complaining? I think not.
And thus starts a downwards spiral.
A favourite quote in this instance comes from Dale Carnegie when he said “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get."
They are not always one in the same.
And for some, the reverse is true. I’ve spoken to clients more times than I can count who tell me how they want their boss’s job or to be promoted to EX level. My first question is usually “Why?” I want to know why they want that promotion and what they see their life looking like when they get it. There are ramifications to all choices even those that look great on paper. But what responsibility and life changes come from that choice? Some answer to the effect that they want to move upwards because everyone else thinks they should. And more than you can believe don’t want that promotion after all. They’re happy with their lifestyle, income and level of responsibility the way it is. It’s not a matter of work ethic or drive in our competitive society. Rather it’s keeping that work/life balance and knowing when to say stop and enjoy life as it is.
I’ll leave you with a short story about a fisherman which I think says it brilliantly….
An American tourist was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.
Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The tourist complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."
The tourist then asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"
The Mexican said, "With this I have more than enough to support my family's needs."
The tourist then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life."
The tourist scoffed, " I can help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you could run your ever-expanding enterprise."
The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"
The tourist replied, "15 to 20 years."
"But what then?" asked the Mexican.
The tourist laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."
The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
Wishing you the best of life….