It started during a lunch meeting when she shared with me that she was bored and starting to burn out from the endless stream of details in her job. As she explained it all to me, I realized she was suffering from decision fatigue. The result of which was that she was becoming anxious, worried and frustrated. “If this is it,” she explained, “then it sucks to be a leader.”
She then asked me, “Should I apply for a new job?”
My response was simple and direct, “Will a new job make you a better mother, daughter, sister, wife?”
She looked out the window of the restaurant and was silent for a bit.
I continued, “Once you have the “new” job, what will your whole life be like?”
Her description was scattered.
Many decades ago, I was a speaker at a large, multi-day conference. As I result, I got to attend all the other workshops for free. So, in the morning before I was to speak, I participated in a workshop about preparing for the future. Once seated, the presenter looked over those gathered and asked the following question: “What will your life be like when you turn 40? 50? 60?”
And in the blink of an eye, I realized that I couldn’t answer the question. The categories were work, family, and personal. In short, I needed a picture, an anchor in the future by which I could pull myself through years to come.
I realized that day that I did not have a clear sense of purpose, picture, plan or clarity about my role in it all. I was just doing the doing and following the advice of Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, you can get anywhere.” The challenge was that I did not want to get anywhere; I wanted to get somewhere.
As Jim collins pointed out in his writing: “Indeed, the great paradox of change is that the organizations that best adapt to a changing world first and foremost know what should not change; they have a fixed anchor of guiding principles around which they can more easily change everything else.”
Since that eventful workshop, I have done this level of thinking for every major ten year period in my life. I cross another decade this year and I am beginning a period of deep introspection. What kind of life do I want ten years from now? It is such a big question for me. I have learned that my intent and focus play a big part of my dealing with burnout.
This week, I challenge you to envision your life ten years in the future. What is the picture you hold in your mind’s eye, the purpose you hold in your heart, and the plan to get there? Now is a good time to figure it out.