Sylvie, looked down at her coffee cup and told me, defeatedly, “I feel like I’m asleep. I’ve been asleep for years.” Sylvie, a new client, was exploring her sense of being stuck at her job and what to do about it. But her real pain arose because she felt that her lethargy at work was creating difficulties at home, as well as with her sense of worth.
She continued, ‘My performance reviews are good, and I go along with creating the requisite goals on paper with the head of HR, but they are illusory…because they aren’t really challenges. I know I’ll achieve them before the signature hits the page. Its all a ‘been there, done, that’ sort of feeling.”
Things were going well for Sylvie. She had maintained a mid-level management position in a mid-sized company for years. She was well liked and enjoyed her peers. She knew the ropes and did her work efficiently and well, was decently paid and had the usual perks…so what was wrong? Why seek coaching?
When leaders, managers and supervisors “fall asleep” in their careers, they’ve lost a lot more than passion. Being on automatic pilot may sound like a good idea, but when we explore it more fully, we actually find its awful!
Not only does that state describe an ongoing feeling of zero passion, it also points to a total lack of imagination, learning and growth. Yikes – those are serious losses for any intelligent, resourceful leader.
And to have years or even decades pass in that state of “comfort” impacts you not only at work, but at home, too!
Your aliveness which has dissolved into boredom, complacency and mindless “doing” at work can’t inspire or engage the loved ones with whom you’re sharing – at the dinner table, over coffee, or in bed.
And when you confront yourself in the mirror, you’re not happily smiling but rather almost ignoring the face reflected back to you.
Call it “settling” or a “stalemate” or simply “dancing the same old dance” that repeating pattern is stealing an important chunk of who you really are.
Putting the zest back into your career (and your life as a result) doesn’t require drastic measures. It does take a commitment – to your own development, your own richness…and you can do it in four simple steps.
Step One: Reflect backwards and find scenarios when a project, an initiative was fully engaging. (These can be career related or not.)
Step Two: Jot down who was involved; the challenges, the environment; your strategies for success; the rewards for completing the project.
Step Three: Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Experience the emotions, sensations that arise as you reflect on the engagement. Notice where the aliveness in you showed up (your belly, your chest, your hands or…) Stay with the sensations until you have a physical locale.
Step Four: Write down the answers to: What Was I Learning? What’s something I’d like to learn now? How can I go about that? Who could support me?
Once you’ve got these answers and have nailed down some of the sensations, you have a roadmap and a barometer.
What this means to you is that you can begin to incorporate places in your life where the answers to step two live. If they aren’t available, build them in – either at work or after. That’s the map part.
Then, as you experiment ( its going to be trial and error for a while) use the sensations you surfaced in step three to as the barometer. Are you getting closer to feeling that zest? If so, do more. If not, it times to try something else.
HINT: Sometimes you can mistake zest for fear! You might mislabel your sense of aliveness as fear because its become unfamiliar during “the long sleep”. When you notice the emotion that you are calling fear, check it out thoroughly. What are you really afraid of? Is it manageable? Or are you actually feeling the challenge, the potential learning, the engagement with the unknown and calling it by the wrong name?
Sometimes, this is a journey best taken with a coach. The support and accountability and motivation that a coaching program creates, may be the impetus for moving you out of the “yawns” and into the “aha” sector of you life.
Yes, there are ways to integrate challenge, learning and growth into your life RIGHT NOW!
By identifying something of value you’d like to achieve, know, explore, you can round up support (colleagues, direct reports, bosses) and collaboratively come up with ways to incorporate it into your work life.
Failing that, you can look for another outlet – a new skill, take a challenging class, become proficient at a new sport, join a group, or get a coach to move you off your spot. The learning and inspiration will cross pollinate your work life and your personal life. Good books entertain; great books tip your world ever so slightly. Don’t be surprised if reading I AM THE MESSENGER shifts your perspective on your own life. The story is so good that it breaks your heart. You’ll have new people to interact with, something fresh to report on, a new level of challenge to reflect upon and a launchpad for a wider perspective.
And you’ll wake up! Blast through that deadening feeling of being asleep at the wheel of your life, which makes you dull and ultimately makes you rigid. The initial blast may be a tiny on the Richter scale, but the rumbles will attract more movement – after shocks that will lead to more passion, more aliveness, more growth.
Sure you can start small. And perhaps you’ll gain momentum for bigger changes. For sure, you’ll add some zest to your day to day that will serve you well in every area of your life.
So go for it. Today! Now! What are you waiting for?