I had no plans to write this blog post. But as they say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
If you follow my work, you know that for the past 6 years I’ve dedicated myself to helping young professionals experience career success. However, something has been off the past couple of years. Initially, I ignored it but I no longer can.
You see, the vast majority of emails and inquires that I receive aren’t from twenty-something young professionals asking for career advice. Nearly 100% of my coaching clients are 35 and older. And, over 70% of my speaking engagements are for senior managers, directors and executives.
The people I describe above are not entry-level young professionals They are typically between the ages of 35 and 45 and in the midst of what most would consider successful careers.
What stands out with these talented people are the conversations that we have in e-mail exchanges, coaching sessions or one-on-one after I give a talk.
All of the conversations seem to have one thing in common. They tend to go like this:
"On paper, it looks like I have it all figured out. I got my education. I have a successful career. I earn a good income. I’m married, we have a family, home..."
Then they pause, go silent or look away before they continue.
"However, something doesn’t feel right. I can’t put my finger on it but I regularly feel off balance. I don’t feel as successful or happy as I look on Facebook or LinkedIn. I don’t have it all figured out. Not hardly. To top things off, more is expected of me than ever before in my life. People count on me."
Typically, I ask if they have shared this with others. Nine times out of 10 the answer is no. They say they feel guilty for complaining about what most of their friends and family perceive as their great life. So, they keep their feelings locked inside in the dark.
I remember talking to one successful businesswoman in her early forties. She was married and the mother of two kids. She said something I’ll never forget:
"Sometimes I feel like I’m playing a role that I was cast into. One day I looked in the mirror and I hardly recognized the person that I have become."
Most of the people I speak with feel stuck, unfulfilled or both. They are starting to question everything. The choices they made. The choices they didn’t make. The days they played it safe. The days they ignored their intuition. And the days they retreated from what was most important to them.
A powerful question I like to ask during these conversations is one that tends to catch people off guard: What did you originally set out to do with your life?
This stops people in their tracks. I can see them thinking and their brain searching for an answer. Trying to remember.
Most don’t have a clear answer. However, when they finally answer they share that what they do know is that what they’re doing today is not what they intended to do when they began life in the “real world.” Sure, they’re “successful,” but what they’re doing today was not the plan.
Is this you? Do you feel like you’re on a treadmill running in place in your successful career and life? Can you remember what you originally set out to do?
If you’re between 35 and 45, and you can relate to this, I’d love to hear from you. I’m gathering research and looking to learn more so I can support people experiencing this.
If you’ve had a conversation with someone about this in the past, please share it with them as well.
And remember, you have a choice. You always had a choice whether you were aware of it or not.
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