I don’t know if you can relate but what is supposed to happen when we land in our objective? We do the things. The boxes all get checked. Done. “Man, that was gratifying.” Or was it? Now what?
If you’re a high achiever, you’ve list-made, networked, hustled, passed go, collected $200, and followed that glittery rainbow all the way past the horizon but now that you’re here… Your next step’s trajectory is less apparent. Maybe altogether Invisible.
What exactly are we supposed to do when the hopes and dreams, the ambitions we’ve had our whole life are accomplished (or revised? or deleted?)?
My Evolution of Ambition
How am I supposed to steer this ship when my heart and gut don’t feel that drive and hunger the same way I always have? (Or, some days, not at all.) My driving force, that fire-in-the-belly ambition that got me here has all but evaporated. Almost all of my goals have been met. Those that haven’t, I can attribute to convenient reasons: some abstract, some tactile, some practical. No judgement - all the reasons are real.
This leaves me absent ambition. Who am I without that familiar guiding quest? What is my purpose? Am I dead inside? Am I depressed? Will it come back? Do I want it to? And the big question -
Is this all there is?
So here I am. 37. Full-time business consultant in the Fortunes, liked and respected, sought after, and dying inside everyday as I learn and apply industry details that I don’t care about to continue to excel in a job I do not care about for work that does not move me and does not, really, matter to me at all.
Of course the people matter. Of course, I want to honor my commitment and help my team and all of that.
But does my work matter to me and to my life beyond the paycheck? No. Am I advancing myself? No. Am I growing? No. Not in the ways I’m so hungry for.
Will I be proud to have my children know that this is what I spent my time away from them doing? No.
I decline time playing with and reading books with my daughters - I break away from hugs and snuggles - I decline calls from my husband - I turn down coffee with my parents - for the sake of being on conference calls.
I can’t get away to breastfeed before naps - Even though I want to.
And it’s all for the sake of projects and work and companies that are many times removed from substantially mattering to me.
I hate it.
Enter cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is an emotional ninja super hero. It helps us survive by giving us the ability to mentally quell internal conflict by doing whatever rational gymnastics it takes in order to feel the least amount of emotional discomfort.
Case in point, I think the thought: “I really want to be with my daughters.”
Dissonance musters all of my rational ability to simmer my emotions down and answers back with:
- “Yes, but I want them to see me working so they can feel the freedom to work.”
- “They need to hear “no” so that they know to expect it in the real world.”
- “I have all these amazing assets and great opportunities and experiences - it’s selfish to want more.”
- “It’s the status quo to not have everything I want.”
- “No one can be joyful and happy all the time. Who do I think I am?”
And after all of that, I land at “Fine.” I’m fine. This situation is fine. Of course I’m fine. Fine is fine. It’s not great. I don’t like it. But it’s fine. I don’t feel alive, but I’m fine. It’s fine.
I am DONE with fine.
This is the tipping point.
I am grateful. Of course I am grateful for all of the work and support and validation and compensation and contributors to the entirety of this success to-date; for all that this work has taught me, for all of the experience and for the good I have been able to do.
I am grateful for this period of uncertainty. I’m grateful for the dissatisfaction that’s fueling this exercise of mining my ambition’s clarity. This pained evolution is part of the greater whole - it’s a story line in a much larger arc.
All of my successes, failures, lessons learned and all of the many mental, emotional and financial investments up to this point will continue to serve and reward my future self and work - whatever that is.
I am grateful even for this pain and process even though in the absence of any defined objectives - this new direction is scary, foggy.
Scary or not, the fine chapter is done. I am done being split into two disparate people. Living a work life that’s incongruent with my joy. Having fun-work and family life vs. work-work. Forfeiting participation and being present with my Loves for the sake of work that does not fill me up, spark joy or resonate with calling.
This is operation Joy Finders
We’re starting with Why. I love this concept by Simon Sinek. It follows that if you can identify your Why and follow your Why through How you do What you do… then you live your purpose.
For the course of my life, I’ve been led by the What and How of others’ expectations and for what I believe are their sincere best interests for my wellbeing.
Originally, I did What-ever it took, How-ever I could to please my parents. Then to be liked by others. Then to impress. To achieve. To attain.
Only in recent years have I even considered my Why. I’m beginning to shed some of that weight of others’ expectations. Without the others of the world navigating my ambition, my What and How are left to wait uncomfortably in the passenger seat, buckled in by fear - fears that are practical and more often than not, convenient.
And now - in these moments of trying to figure it out, I’m realizing my Why and retargeting my intentions… in Joy. Finding joy. Being in the joy - present, wholly, just as I am.
My flow is when I’m connecting - I love people - the way humans connect to each other - the way we tap into our truest and best selves.
My Why is figuring out how to do that + helping others do that and be purpose-fueled, fulfilled, and REAL.
The How and What are a work in progress. Connecting, sharing, communicating, creating. In the meantime… follow along right here.
This is my manifesto of joy
My joy is with my family. When we’re all together - one roof, one sky - shared adventures, learning and experiences. Shared life with my Love.
My joy is connecting, sharing and encouraging, enabling and uplifting others, and creating.