Are you enjoying your life’s journey, or falling into the trap of focusing just on the destination?
I recently came across the challenge of destination-based thinking when I was working with a young athlete, let’s call her Vicky. She wanted more than anything to play basketball in the pros. She finally got a chance to work out with a pro team, but there weren’t any spots available.
Hoping for a lucky break, Vicky was going all out at practice. She made the team better by bringing positive energy. While her teammates loped down the court, Vicky sprinted, and gradually everyone else followed her example. Even though it was disheartening to see less able players on the team ahead of her, she kept pushing and being a positive force that lifted others up.
Then, she got her big break. Someone left the team and Vicky was offered a contract. At first, she was thrilled. She had a brilliant first game as a professional player. She was living her dream, and it was joyful to watch.
But it quickly stopped being joyful for Vicky. She’s no longer going all out, she isn’t “talking it up” on the court, she’s playing it safe. All the things that made her an asset to the team when she wasn’t even formally on the team had evaporated.
Instead, she started feeling the pressure to perform whereas before, she had only upside. The anxiety of keeping her place in the line-up replaced the joy and “go all out” attitude that had got her that pro contract in the first place.
This happens in other careers too. That promotion you’ve been pushing for finally happens, and then you’ve got even bigger worries and pressures at the next level up. It’s like the video games where each world you get to is harder than the one before. Congratulations and welcome to the lowest rung on the next ladder!
So, are you feeling joyful on your journey? Or are you bogged down along the way?
Does work feel like a grind, even though you know you’re good at what you do? And maybe it’s even what you sought out and signed up for, just like Vicky, so it feels wrong to complain.
Well, it can happen to anyone. In fact, it’s happening to me. Right now. But I’m doing all the things I want to do! So why haven’t I felt as much joy as I want to lately?
I told myself that it’s the stress of deadlines and too many new things:
- launching my first book,
- hosting a live webinar with two special guests,
- creating and delivering 5 big client events over the next two months (one of them in Mandarin Chinese, which is my second language),
- living by my motto of operating outside my comfort zone, and
- saying “yes” to too many cool new things.
Surely, once I get past this “bad patch”, things will become joyful again.
It wasn’t until I talked to my coach (I belong to a group that coaches entrepreneurs called “Strategic Coach”, and yes, just like any self-respecting doctors have doctors, coaches have coaches!) that I realized that I needed a gut check on “why am I not joyful and what would it take to recapture that joyful feeling?”.
Stephanie told me that I needed to figure out what to drop or delegate. Fair enough, I could do a better job of delegating, but what if there wasn’t anything significant to drop?
Then the really helpful concept came. If these are all things I want to do, then my problem was that I have set unrealistic deadlines. I want to do everything now, but that’s impossible. I was setting myself up for disappointment.
So, this morning, I sat down and thought about what made me feel less joyful. And what things was I doing that should bring me joy – ones that used to do so – and no longer do.
That’s when I realized my 6 biggest mistakes.
- Made a humanly impossible list of things to accomplish, and when I accomplished 3-4 of them, the other 15-20 were still staring back at me.
- Discounted my successes – I still haven’t learned to celebrate success and congratulate my team, much less myself, and that was bringing me down. Note to self: remember to celebrate. If not for myself, then certainly for the benefit of my team.
- Not taking any breaks. This was true not only during the day, but also over the course of the week and the month. As Stephanie reminds me, taking those breaks, which she calls “Free Days”, is crucial to setting yourself up for super productive work days.
- Saying “yes” to too many things, and not all of them in direct alignment with my bigger goals. While some opportunities are ones you must grab with both hands now, others are ones to leave for later.
- Clawed back things I had delegated – being too eager to jump in and too stubborn to break the old habit of doing things myself.
- Worried about things I had already decided – instead, I would be better off making a decision, sticking with it, seeing what the results were, and learning from it for next time.
Then it all made sense.
These were all things within my control. And it was up to me to choose to be joyful – to say yes to the things that would help me feel that way (like being outside), to say no to the things that wouldn’t, and to build in some down time so I didn’t feel quite so pressured.
It’s hard to feel joyful when you’re under the gun.
I have to focus on doing just a few crucial things each day and let the rest be. Trying to get the impossible list ticked and tied every day is not an achievement, even if I were to accomplish it. And the effort was making me miserable… all while doing the very things I said I wanted to do!
So now I’m focused on realistic deadlines for just 3 things max. each day, and taking breaks outside where I can breathe some fresh air.
How about you? How many of these mistakes do you make and what will your focus points be?
As they say, we learn the most from mistakes, and I hope you will be able to learn from mine. I’d love to help you avoid the unnecessary stress and get to joyfulness as soon as you can.
And if you’re interested in learning from the mistakes that others have made, make sure to join me and my special guests, Leonard Kim and Vinay Jayaram, for an inside look at their career journeys, the mistakes you must avoid, and how they handled the challenges along the way.
As they say, life’s a journey and you have to enjoy all the steps along the way. Achieving your goals feels great, but the achievement can feel fleeting. In some sense, there is no “there” when you get there.
The joy is in the journey.
Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.