Friday, May 4, 2012

Avoiding the post-goal-achievement letdown

Photo by Lauren Poland

Well, here you are with another stretch of road in front of you.  You focused your energy, you sacrificed in other areas of your life so you could achieve that goal you have been chasing. After time (and perhaps some struggle) you have made it and you have celebrated your success. Now what?

After the victory dance is over after a big goal is achieved it's not uncommon to feel like something's missing. It's not that the goal didn't bring the rewards that you hoped for and even expected - you're still happy that you accomplished it.  Your issue is that the purpose, the focus that the goal gave you is gone.  The space in your calendar that your goal-directed activities filled is now empty.  There's a bit of an echo in the room.

Some people drift for a while after they have accomplished something big that they set out to do. It might partly be because they have tapped out their energy resources in the pursuit of their target, and they now need to refuel. But there's another factor as well. Once you have fulfilled a need it no longer motivates. If you set out to have $100,000 in the bank, once it's in there its power to move you is gone.

Purpose is what keeps people going. Imagine achieving your life goals by age 35 and realizing that you probably have 50 or more years to live. What would you do with all of that time?  The striving is what gives your life its excitement, its meaning. This doesn't mean that you have to climb one monstrous cliff after another and resign yourself to being a stress monkey forever.  But to make your life count - in your own eyes - you need something to look forward to. You need to see a distant view that you want to bring closer.

Where should you look for your renewed sense of purpose?  If you are drifting after accomplishing a goal, examine the things that you put aside for the goal's sake while you were working on it. Perhaps you now have an opportunity to add some balance to your life.  You can shift gears and engage in the life-cycle version of balance rather than the daily or weekly version. Perhaps you've got a secret project that has received no attention recently, but that can now receive some of your energy. If nothing in particular is pulling you, perhaps it's because you have kept these other dreams and aspirations in the background for so long that they need a little nudging to step forward out of the shadows and into view.

You are faced with many times of transition in your life - some of which you choose and some that are imposed upon you by the order of things. There is an ebb and flow to intense activity and energy consumption.  The time immediately following the achievement of big goals is one of those transition times. If you're concerned about getting stuck in that drifting mode, a coach may be helpful to you.  Your coach can provide tools to help you identify the next mountain you want to climb.

The Summit coaches help high-performing individuals to stay engaged, and to create a lifetime of professional and personal success.

1 comment:

Mark Sturgell, CBC said...

Excellent topic and treatment, Julie. The concept of "life-cycle balance" deserves more attention, from both of us. I may write about that one more myself.

"You can shift gears and engage in the life-cycle version of balance rather than the daily or weekly version."