Successful but not Happy
Many very successful people feel stuck. The very behaviors that contributed to their success may be subverting their satisfaction and fulfillment.
In a recent online interview, I talked about how many businessmen and women—even extremely successful ones—often feel stuck in their careers. Their businesses may be booming, they may be making rivers of cash, and they may be honored by their peers, but they don’t feel alive or fulfilled.
Does this sound like you? You’re not alone—it happens all the time.
Why? There can be many reasons, but here’s a common one: Unwittingly, you are trapped inside a framework of behaviors, feelings, and mindsets that were designed by a five-year-old.
Most of your behaviors, values, and mindsets were forged when you were young—almost always in response to some threat or unmet concern. Being an infant, toddler, or child is, at times, really scary—you are at the mercy of the far more powerful forces that inhabit your world. To protect yourself, you develop what coaches call a survival mechanism.
You may have learned when you were a child that to be liked, you had to satisfy other people’s needs; or that to be “valued” you had to perform well (e.g. good grades); or that you don’t “deserve” to have needs or desires; or that it’s dangerous to express your anger. The list is endless. But these behaviors and mindsets you carry into adulthood.
So far, this is pretty standard: That the behaviors you develop as a child significantly determine who you are as an adult is not breaking news.
But the key thing to note is that because your behaviors were adopted by a kid responding to a threat or a fear, they were designed to keep you safe—not happy or fulfilled.
This is often the root cause of our “stuckness”: we’re safe but empty; we’re successful professionally, but bored silly.
When people try to break out of their stuckness—they buy flashy sports cars, break up their marriages, launch new businesses, mope around the house—whatever. But whatever they try, usually nothing much changes.
There’s a saying for this: Where ever you go, there you are.
What you need to do is to bust out of your survival mechanism. The difficulty is that you can’t see your survival mechanism—in the same way, that a fish doesn’t know it’s in water. You mistake your survival mechanism for the way things are—for reality. You confuse your perception of the world for reality.
What’s the way out?
When you work with me, the first thing we do is to distinguish your survival mechanism. You can’t choose something else if you don’t see what’s already there.
Next, we develop new ways of looking at the world—ways that are not determined by your survival mechanism. Seeing yourself or the world in a new way will open up new pathways, new opportunities, new actions you can take. This time, you take them, not to ensure your survival, but to ensure your happiness and fulfillment.
This “distinguishing and choosing” is the genius and power of coaching. It’s your pathway to a deeper, more meaningful life.