Stuck In Orbit

Many of my personal consulting conversations are with successful people who feel like they are somehow “stuck”. Everything in their life seems fine, but they feel like something is missing. They may have a stable career, a nice family, financial security, and all the material trappings that define a comfortable life. But something is still missing…

For clarity, I’m not referring to a frustrated person who has not achieved, but just the opposite. Similar to a rocket-propelled ship coming off the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, this person was a “little (wo)man with big plans”, and expended tremendous energy, focus and tenacity in the pursuit of happiness and reaching their goals.

However, once the determined altitude was reached, they inadvertently became the “big (wo)man with little plans”, the rocket shut down and the steady orbit of life began.

Paradoxically, this usually occurs after you achieve your ambitious life goals, and the excitement of “making it” has dissipated. You made a few orbits of earth, and life became routine and less glamorous than expected.

So many bright and enthusiastic college graduates feel this way after only a few years into their career.  Why?  Or maybe that exciting position at work has turned into a lucrative, yet long, uninspiring slog. How about the athlete that comes down off of the emotional high after winning a championship? There are many examples, in all walks of life.

The culprit that results in achievers getting “stuck” in orbit, is often one of three “personal growth killers”: Comfort, Fear or Perceived Unworthiness.

The first, is what I describe as “comfortably satisfied”. In this state, you occupy a position that is just fine, and likely can be sustained for quite a bit of time. Nothing is “wrong”, but it seems difficult to “fire the engines” again to achieve the life thrust necessary to leave orbit onto a new exciting adventure.

The dilemma in this state of “comfortably satisfied” is simple:  Is the risk and energy that is necessary to change, worth it?  After all, you are very fortunate and have many blessings.

Life is good, but once in a while, you miss that electric feeling of anticipation, excitement and aggressiveness that goes with the pursuit of a worthy goal beyond your current capacity.

Primarily, there are two ways to move beyond the “comfortably satisfied” phase:

Involuntary: Some life changing event happens to you, and it ignites the rocket engines. Examples include getting fired at work, divorce, or a stunning defeat by a more motivated athletic competitor. No choice here…you have to fire the engines, or the decent from orbit is destructive. We won’t spend any more time on this one today.

Voluntary: This usually occurs when you decide to take action to enhance your life.

Here is the key…

The magnitude of the change will likely be proportional to the misery you feel with continuing in your current orbit.

If you are stuck in a “comfortably satisfied” orbit, take the following steps.

1. Figure out if the nagging feeling really has to be dealt with…or is it acceptable? If you determine that it is acceptable, just stay in orbit.  After all, things are fine. Hakuna Matata!

2.  If the feeling is not acceptable, then you must determine to what extent change is necessary.   Is the nagging feeling occasional, or all-consuming?

3.  Take action based on an honest self assessment of your attributes and interests.  “Two Questions That Lead To Life Satisfaction”.

If the feeling is occasional, make some incremental moves in 2018 to get your groove back. I certainly have felt an occasional nagging, and this is why I started “The Wise Blackhawk” blog, joined the board of “The Lunch Project”, got involved in military veterans transition, and will launch a personal consulting business in 2018. I still enjoy my day job at the bank, but I simply wanted to enhance my life with some incremental initiatives.

However, It you can’t take it anymore, you may just roll the dice and make a total, game changing move.  Fire the engines, and head for a completely new destination.

Although this is a riskier move, it may be the most rewarding from an emotional perspective.

I remember a very successful Managing Director, a Harvard MBA, who ran the bank’s M&A business.  One day, he just decided to walk away from finance completely. He moved his entire family to Africa to do missionary work. Bold move. I admired him for his courage and fidelity to his beliefs, as he walked away from lots of prestige, power and money.  Bravo.

In the next two blog posts, I will discuss the other two personal growth killers, Fear and Perceived Unworthiness.

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