I got a call recently that shook me up a bit and made me understand what many of my clients go through. I must admit that I’m not that easily shaken. For two decades, I’ve worked across the country and in many places abroad with fascinating people in circumstances I would never have imagined possible. I’ve lived through my share of personal and professional challenges but have also experienced many successes as a coach, consultant, and more recently a sculptor. So while at times I do get into a creative rut or procrastinate, I thought overall I was doing a good job of stretching myself and living life to the fullest.
And then I got the call. There’s a conference coming up called “Rebel Aging” and I was asked to participate—not as a moderator or facilitator (both roles with which I’m completely comfortable), but as a keynote speaker.
My first reaction was, I’m not a keynote speaker! I’ve done the occasional speech in the past, but really I’m a professional listener, a facilitator of other people’s thoughts and ideas. I very nearly said, “Thanks, but it’s not for me.”
But…there was something nagging at me. Some little spark had been lit. I decided to sit with the question for a while, just to figure out what this spark was, before turning down the offer.
Forgetting to reset the bar
In the days that followed, I found my thoughts turning again and again to individuals in my life who have inadvertently set their inner thermostats to “comfort zone” and walked away from opportunities.
These individuals set a bar for themselves in terms of their career and personal lives. They worked hard, eventually reached that bar—and then forgot about it completely. Certainly they strived to achieve their current position, but after the big achievement of getting a permanent job or earning their master’s degree or starting a business, they stopped striving and started coasting…for 3 or 13 more years, doing well enough. Maybe they could get promoted if they just achieved a certification or qualification; maybe they have always wanted to write a novel. Perhaps they’d told themselves a story: “I don’t have what it takes to move up from middle management,” “I’m just a small enterprise,” “I don’t have time to write a novel.” Then they find themselves night after night, watching TV till bedtime. They might not be deeply unhappy—but they’re vaguely dissatisfied and discontent. Something’s missing.
Challenging yourself at each season of life
Even those with busy, thriving, fulfilling careers, might have a blind spot when it comes to how they could be challenging themselves. Maybe we should all be checking in now and then to see if our bar is set high enough, whether we’re living our lives to the fullest and reaching our potential.
Different seasons of our lives require different approaches. Certainly there are times when we need to coast and rest. Just remember to check in with yourself every now and then, and see if you’d be happier if you were doing something more, or something different. Don’t forget that bar is yours to reset whenever you want.
You can probably guess what I decided about the conference: I said no, absolutely not, get another speaker. I’m a coach and facilitator and that’s that.
Just kidding. Thanks to that phone call, a little spark has grown to a healthy flame. And as of mid-June, I can add “Keynote Speaker” to my CV. Wish me luck!
I’d love to hear from you about how often you raise your own bar. What was the last goal you had to strive for? When someone comes to you feeling a little let down by life, what questions do you ask to help them find what’s missing? How often do you ask yourself those questions?