Don’t let your future disappear

What do you do when you’ve achieved much in your life, yet inexplicably you’ve lost motivation? Your mojo’s gone. You feel you don’t belong there anymore. What’s going on? Several years ago, I had the best job ever running a rapidly growing consulting firm, working with amazing people and great clients, and making a big difference. Yet after seven years’ building, my enthusiasm evaporated. The job hadn’t changed, but I suddenly felt lost and anxious about the future. It’s the same for the many hundreds of people I’ve worked with. When they realise their aspirations, instead of satisfaction, they begin to feel restless and uncertain about what’s next. One man encapsulated it so well, “Ten years ago, I was the youngest General Manager, but now I’m the oldest.” His team is underperforming, but he’s lost motivation to address the problem.

Why do we lose motivation?

Humans are future-oriented. What we see ahead of us determines what we do, think, and feel today. To thrive in the present, we must be able to envision a good life unfolding, being the people we aspire to become, flourishing in a healthy environment. When life gets tough, this vision of the future pulls us forward, providing hope and perseverance in the present. Why else would people leave home to risk their lives crossing dangerous waters in overfilled boats for a new life in a foreign land? As philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” It’s how people survive war and imprisonment. By contrast an empty future does our heads in because we’re not going anywhere. Time collapses because what lies ahead doesn’t matter. The void sucks up our enthusiasm and hope.

But why does your future disappear?

Let’s say you’re in your mid-40s. When you were 25 you wanted to be the boss, start a business, create something significant, or make a unique contribution to the world. You were still naïve and had little experience, so your goals weren’t clear. But an exciting future was pulling you forward, and that’s been your engine. Now that future is fulfilled, maybe not perfectly, but your 25-year-old self would be delighted. A fulfilled future quickly disappears. Logically you must invent a new future – but that’s hard, so you’ll try to fill the void with distractions or avoiding what you don’t want, and spin your wheels.

The task is first to be grateful for what you’ve achieved and then let it go. Take time to listen to your longings for clues as to what might come next. The future for a mature, experienced person may be very different.

Miles Protter

Leadership Coach
Miles has been a full time executive coach, mentor and leadership consultant for more than 23 years, and prior to that spent ten years as a volunteer coach in the personal development space. People come to Miles to make good transitions, transform their capabilities to meet the next challenge, work out what’s next, and create a sense of purpose for their work.   If you would like to read more about Miles and his coaching services on Essemy click this link.