Remember the you, you used to be?
When it came to your career, you were hardworking. Dedicated. Ambitious to the max.
Yes, that was then. This is now, and now, things have changed.
Now, you are part of the two-thirds of workers who, according to a recent Gallup report, are feeling a “desire to scale back their professional ambitions.” You no longer want to get ahead. You don’t even want to keep up. All you want to do is coast quietly under the radar until you are fired, retired or replaced by AI, whichever comes first.
Or so I learned from “How to Make Peace with Feeling Less Ambitious,” a recent article by Dorie Clark in Harvard Business Review.
For the formerly ambitious, it can be unsettling to realize that you have not just misplaced your mojo on your climb to the top, you have lost it completely. It’s a realization that “is often accompanied with feelings of ambivalence or even shame.”
The shame comes from the idea that you are betraying the you you used to be and the you you wanted to become, before you started waking up every morning wondering if getting ahead wasn’t half as attractive as getting back into bed and letting the workday world get on without you.
What’s the solution? Author Clark has some ideas, and I have some ideas about her ideas. Try to keep your eyelids open long enough and you just might see the light.
No. 1: Think in waves.
Successful people “tend to keep doubling down on the strategies that have been effective at work.” By thinking in waves, you will be able to “recognize when it’s time to focus on another strategy.”
For example, if networking has always been a key to your success, you are likely to keep networking until you have schmoozed every human on earth who could possibly be helpful to your career. This is exhausting and futile, since 385,000 babies are born every day, and not one of them wants to be your bestie.
While waiting to catch a new wave, I suggest you start devoting all your efforts to unwinding your network. How? By deleting everyone in your contacts list (except me, of course.) You’re such a wonderful person that your contacts are sure to notice when you ghost them. Fortunately, you know some of their secrets and all of their faults. If threatening to expose their weaknesses isn’t effective, ask to borrow money. That always works.
Work as hard at unwinding your network as you did to build it, and you will find yourself all alone in the world, except, of course, for your stuffies, and there’s no way you’re turning your back on Mr. Bear. Some relationships are precious.
No. 2: Recognize there’s not a universal timeline.
“Almost everyone’s timeline will get derailed at some point,” writes Clark, and it’s true.
Just because absolutely everyone in your peer group is outpacing you doesn’t mean that you won’t eventually catch up. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t mean that you won’t end up in a leaky rowboat while everyone else is sailing their 400-foot motor yachts around the world, chugging champagne and eating caviar tacos. (Hey, it’s my motor yacht. I’ll eat what I want.)
If you do see co-workers becoming more successful, you can either cultivate gratitude for whatever pathetic pittance life has granted you or decide right now to put all the effort you previously employed building your career into dismantling theirs. This will require coming in early to sabotage your co-workers’ mission-critical projects and staying late, buttering up your boss and spreading rumors about the failings of your best friends at work.
Yes, stepping off the treadmill can put you behind, but if you use your capacity for hard work to push your closest work friends off their treadmills, it will definitely be worth it.
No. 3: Understand the conditions for growth.
If you’ve been always rewarded for your business achievements, it is difficult to understand that “what you need isn’t more. What you need is different.”
Instead of driving yourself dizzy piling up successes, take a different route and start stacking up failures. It will be difficult at first, and it will definitely demand effort, but if you start with minor mistakes, you can eventually work yourself up to major boo-boos and finally, to those mind-boggling blunders that will sink the company, leaving you out in the street, unemployed and unemployable.
And if that isn’t delightfully stress-free, I don’t know what is.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected]. To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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