You did it. The “it,” of course, is your personal definition of success. You started the company. Got the salary. Landed the job. Grew the organization. Expanded the territory. Got married. Had children. Built the dream house. Ran the marathon. Traveled the world. Went skydiving.
If only it were that simple.
Here are two stories.
The Infinite Game Plan
A middle-aged woman came to me, let’s call her MJ. She’s the director of a large department in a successful manufacturing company that pays her a handsome salary with great benefits. She loves the salary but the work is uninspiring. She’s happily married with three young children to whom she is completely devoted. They live in a spacious, beautiful home in a prestigious neighborhood known for its excellent school district.
For MJ, her current life situation and idea of success grew organically. Part of her life feels wonderful (husband, kids, and home). However, it’s often eclipsed with her professional life, which leaves her feeling drained, stressed, and unappreciated. She’s afraid to leave because she wants to keep her lifestyle. If she leaves, how will she and her husband afford the mortgage? The vacations? College for the kids? Their retirement? And yet, MJ is facing at least another 15 years until her kids are financially independent. In a word, MJ feels trapped.
The Finite Game Plan
In this case, an older gentleman (LP) describes a lifetime of professional success. He worked at a string of financial institutions. With each change, his responsibilities grew along with his salary and sense of professional self-worth. But despite career successes his sense of personal self-worth was suffering. He revealed to me that he had entrepreneurial dreams yet always deferred his dream until “just after this next life marker.” His wife’s retirement. His son’s high school graduation. His daughter’s college graduation.
In LP’s situation, he’s organized his professional game plan around a series of specific, well-defined achievements. Each goal marks a new cycle, a repetitive pattern, of striving and arriving, each marking a victory of success. But has it? LP has the reached the point of wondering, “Is this it?” Are there any successes that feel more meaningful?
Two Game Plans.
Like MJ and LP, it’s likely that your game plan has finite and infinite elements. In either case, you’re realizing that what you want out of your professional role in life has changed dramatically since the game began. The original vision that inspired your efforts (that list of “should do its”), isn’t quite fitting with the emotions you’re experiencing upon the moment of achievement.
The mere act of playing the game changes you. You begin to wonder, what am I doing? Where am I going? Am I achieving my potential and is it meaningful?
And here you are. Fortunately, you have been granted an overage of time.
In sports, there is typically a short timeout between the game ending and the beginning of overtime. This timeout is used to review the game and discuss new tactics to ensure victory.
CEOs, leaders, and entrepreneurs — here’s what to do during your short timeout.
Your Game Review
Before crafting a game plan for your future you need to identify where you are, how you got there, and why you are there. The following questions will help:
- When did I begin my career as leader or entrepreneur?
- What was it like when I started … how did it feel?
- What was the business/department/company – its name and description.
- Why did you take the plunge to work with this company or start your business?
- What were your hopes and goals at that time? Make a list.
- Is that enough? How much is enough?
- What is important to you now?
Your Overtime Game Plan
Take a blank sheet of paper. On one side, write down how you will take care of what is important to you. On the other side, write what you are going to do to achieve that.
Time to Own It
The mere act of writing gives you insights that are useful in planning whatever you decide to do next. You have to choose action to make a change. But here’s a little secret. Sometimes the act of writing lets you realize that what you have is want you want. At least for now.
Owning your life, professionally and personally is about making conscious choices. We ultimately create a purpose with the choices we make.
In his succinct but powerful book, What Happens When You Get What You Want, author Rick Eigenbrod says, “The journey ends and the call to a new one begins. Which journey? The one you choose of course.”
Let the best part of the game begin.