“I am worn out, " he said as we sat down together for a breakfast consultation on a hot and humid summer morning. “We have expanded the size and scope of our organization 10-fold. But even after a week of vacation, I am neither rejuvenated nor rested. I have job security as one of the top executives and a great salary. I love my wife, and we have beautiful children who are grown, married, and are bringing wonderful grandchildren into the world.
However, I realize I'm losing perspective. I’ve even started chewing people out at work. While I sense I am called to this work -- that I am here to do something significant -- I'm feeling overwhelmed. And I know I am not doing the job as well as I should be."
It was a long and personal breakfast meeting. I challenged him to live what he knew to be true.
"Do you mean I have to recover my own vision?"
"Yes, " I replied. "Your challenges are the seeds for great achievements if you are willing to preserve the core of who you are and what you believe in. Now is not the time to compromise your values."
In order to persevere in the midst of great challenges, courage, hope, and personal vision must be recovered -- for they are vital ingredients in coping effectively with change. They fortify one's ability to move ahead with clarity. They invigorate a "can do" mentality. At the same time, courage, hope, and vision are not easily found, unless we are willing to let go of unproductive and self-defeating habits.
I was sitting in another executive's office a few months later, discussing current problems in his company, when he shared with me about some of the serious physical and stress-related symptoms he had been experiencing. “I am the CEO of this corporation," he exclaimed, "and I know that if I don't make some changes, I’ll be dead before I'm fifty. This job is killing me.
"Two months ago, I began having problems with double vision, and then one day my chest tightened up and I passed out. In the emergency room at the hospital, the nurse asked me if I had been under a lot of stress. I told her I had been, but since the situation would not be changing any time soon, I told her that I just need to get me back on my feet so I can get on with the day.
"Two weeks ago, I realized I could care less about half the stuff I was doing. I talked about this with an older mentor of mine, and he suggested I consider changing jobs - maybe even look at a career change. It was then that I realized I really am afraid to look at my life. This is all I have ever done, and I just don't know where I would go from here."
Many people in organizations are caught in a pattern of “P.0.W ism." They expect themselves and others to be perfectionists, overachievers, and workaholics. Sometimes, when swamped by team projects, committee meetings, and paperwork, we even act as if we are human "doings" ‚ instead of human beings.
In the long run, a P.O.W. approach to work and life will only yield cynicism, stress, and burnout. John O'Neil, in his book, The Paradox of Success, reminds us that many people are winning at work and losing at life. Transforming a challenge into an achievement, by its very nature, asks us to extend our boundaries.
Functioning outside our comfort zone is not always easy, and maintaining perspective can be difficult at times. Start this process by asking yourself an important question:
What is the one thing I am not doing today that would make my life more meaningful if l did it on a regular basis?
Let your answer be the foundation for rebuilding your personal vision for the future.
Remember: The success of any change cycle is determined not only by what we do, but who we are.