“I was built to be successful,” is how she begins our conversation. And when I hear this, I believe her.
She leans forward, piercing hazel eyes upon me, and says, “I’ve spent my entire adult life chasing the next job, prestigious title, advanced degree and opportunity,” her voice losing some of its punch as she continues, “and I’ve worked incredibly hard by anyone’s standards.”
Now leaning back into the chair, Rachel confides with a deep sigh, “I’m tired, Chris, bone tired.” Admitting this to herself, and now me, has been a process.
“I know how to keep up, keep at it, keep going . . . but there’s got to be more to life than working,” she concludes, with the hint of a question implied.
Rachel knows she’s on to something, feeling the weight of her own recognition in the quiet that follows.
With the pandemic receding, Rachel’s taken a deep breath, and stepped back to pause.
She’s had space to get curious about life—her actual life, not the one she inherited (based largely on other’s expectations) or even the one she’s pursued.
Recent articles and reports from employers confirm that Rachel isn’t alone.
Lots of us are rethinking how how we want to spend our time and are questioning what ‘work’ means to us. Waves of us are leaving our jobs in search of more opportunity, more money, more flexibility, more happiness.
I’m all for asking, ‘How’s life working for me?’ and yet there’s a larger question in the background, larger than the immediacy of work, one that has to do with the notion of ‘more.’
Are we leaving work places to distract themselves from the harsh realities of life: loss, difficult people, fear of life’s uncertainties? As if more money, more vacations, more stuff will suffice?
Or, like Rachel, are we sincerely beginning to question what it means to lead a full life?
A full and integrated life is one where our pace and natural rhythms are reflected in the interplay of energies between rest and work. It’s a life that pulses between pushing to make things happen versus allowing life to unfold in its own time.
An oft neglected aspect of leadership is one’s ability to take a stand in the face of competing commitments and contradictory pressures, a stand based on ones’ core values.
No doubt the world’s changed. Work’s changed. We’ve changed too.
But are we running away or turning toward life?
Rachel’s choosing to take a stand, though she’s comfortably sipping coffee in my office now, supported by cushy pillows and me.
The questions I’m encouraging Rachel (and you) to explore are:
- What’s really important to me at this time?
- What am I willing to risk for a full and integrated life?
- What is it costing me to stay on the course I’m on now?