Why do so many leaders feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled after years of hard work? All too often, people arrive at the pinnacle of their career only to realise the peak is not giving them the happiness they wanted.
When this happens, we feel confused. This is what coaching psychologist Dr Tony Grant calls a "Hollow Victory”. So, how can we break out of this cycle of unfulfillment?
Four simple yet effective steps to transform how you work
- Step 1: View this as a growth opportunity
Understand that feeling this way is normal. We often start our careers with end goals in mind. We are in hunting mode, the achievement lane, convinced that external achievements and accolades equal happiness and fulfillment.
As we mature, our desire for more than personal achievement sets in. We want to contribute and add value - not just to satisfy our ego, but to feel useful and purposeful.
Once you understand that feeling dissatisfied is not necessarily a setback or crisis, you can use it as an opportunity for future growth. Take advantage of this defining moment. Be curious and excited about it.
- Step 2: Shift your focus and energy
Resist the urge to make a 180-degree change overnight. Starting anything new takes time. If you are a marketing leader in your organisation, you are in a privileged position within your organisation, industry and community. Instead of feeling bored with what you have, look at what can you leverage. Consider your position a privilege and find ways to make more of a contribution.
Look at the way you spend your time. Do you devote all your time to getting ahead or do you give back? You don’t have to give all the time, but by shifting some of your inward thinking outward, you will bring more meaning to your life. Start by volunteering in a cause you believe in or by helping others within your current environment. I have found many leaders find immense satisfaction in mentoring others.
You don’t have to change the world. You can start being more purposeful by helping one person at a time. Over time, this will lead you to more purposeful work.
- Step 3: Take control of your professional brand
Most people, especially when they have been in an organisation for many years, become used to reacting. They turn up to work like robots, slave to the tasks lying ahead of them. They lose autonomy and even their identity, despite having a job title.
Your job is only one part of your professional identity. Think about what else you can do to reclaim your autonomy. Marketers by nature are good at building brands for others, and we need to take the same approach in amplifying our own.
I often encourage people to explore a side project outside of work. You could even lead something you are passionate about at work, even if it doesn’t sit within your responsibilities. Consider taking a more active role in your industry - for example, by speaking at events, sitting on a committee or sharing your thought leadership via a blog.
These are just a few ways you can create a professional brand that is more authentically you. By stepping out of your 'norm', you are more likely to connect with like-minded people and discover opportunities aligned with your values and strengths.
- Step 4: Bring passion and learning into your life
Learn something new and bring passion into your life. It’s possible to experience meaning and joy every day, even when your job is not ideal.
The majority of people can cultivate their passions while working. Over time, you may decide to combine your passion with your work. Marketers enjoy creating new things. Learning to create something you are passionate about can in return strengthen your business skills at work.
Even if you continue to pursue them separately, don’t feel as though they will distract you or make you less driven in your corporate career; they will give you the energy you need and make you feel alive. In return, you will feel more productive in every area of your life.
A successful future is the sum of the conscious choices we make and the actions we take daily. When we feel unfulfilled, we need to act. The sooner we respond to this mental conflict, the more satisfied we become in life and at work. To transform the way we feel, we simply need to start changing the way we work and live today.