It seems odd, but lately I have been meeting a lot of people who seem to be unhappy. Perhaps unhappy is too strong a word. Resigned may be a better description. These are people who, at first glance, seem to have everything going for them. They have successful careers. They have climbed the ladder of their choosing and found a spot at or near the top. Finances are not an issue for them. Family life seems golden.
And yet, these same people who have it all are unhappy. Everything they have achieved, everything they have been told they should achieve is falling just a little flat as they pass each milestone.
I met a former colleague in the airport a few days ago. I was on my way to a coaching expo in Southern California, and he was on his way to his vacation home in Hawaii. Not a bad destination, right? You would think he would be happy to be on his way for a week or more of sunshine and blue water. However, the only thing he could talk about was his job ( my former employer) and what an awful environment it had become. Even on his way to paradise, the toxic culture where he spends the majority of his time was coloring his perspective. Would he be able to enjoy his vacation at all? I’m sure he relaxed after a few days. I know from experience, because I used to feel the same way about my job and it took three days to start to relax and enjoy the moment.
The coaching expo was amazing. The energy level in the conference center was through the roof. Approximately seven hundred coaches attended, and when you put that many people who love what they do together, you can’t help but create a unique, inspiring environment. It was unlike any other convention I had attended in my previous career, and I was stunned by the differences.
While there, I met a woman who, like me, had become a coach as she neared her fifties. As she told her story, I felt as if I were looking into a mirror. A successful executive in the hospitality industry, she had worked her way up through the ranks. The money was great, she liked her job, and her family was financially secure. Again, she had achieved everything she thought she was supposed to in order to be successful. And yet, she felt as if the life was slowly being sucked out of her. She had settled for living an average life. As she reached her midlife point, she paused to reflect, as so many of us do.
It’s funny, when you are twenty the idea of living thirty or forty more years seems an eternity. Once you hit fifty, however, you realize just how quickly those years are going to go. When she paused to catch her breath, she discovered the reason she had settled for average. Her life was simply about going through the motions. There was no passion in what she did, and she certainly did not bring any passion into her job. Suddenly, the idea of spending the next twenty years going through the motions and waiting for retirement was unendurable.
What did she do? She made a choice and took a leap of faith. Helping other people improve their lives was what she loved to do, so she left the safety of her corporate world and chose to start her own coaching practice. Fast forward five years, and this lady is happier than she has ever been. It wasn’t so much about owning a business that changed her life, it was more about what the business could do for other people. Now when she visits her former colleagues, they joke about joining her because she seems fulfilled and more relaxed than she ever was in the corporate world.
It all comes down to choices. If you are content to go through the motions, if that fulfills you and gives you what you seek in life, then more power to you. But if you are in a position that is bleeding you dry, you have options. Don’t settle for average. Don’t just wait around for retirement, thinking everything will be better then.
Are the choices easy? No, of course not. Anything worth achieving is never easy. But it is possible. If you can define your passion, and then have the courage to follow that passion, your life will change in ways you cannot even imagine.
And you will never settle for being average again. It’s an amazing feeling.