Bigger, better, stronger, faster, more. These are the words many leaders live by. How can we grow the business? What’s next for me? Where can I further develop? How can we improve? We are constantly setting goals and striving for more in our businesses and our lives.
But is it ever enough? Is it ever okay to be content where we are and to simply enjoy the present? Does a desire to pause indicate weakness?
Over the years, I have encountered leaders who make the decision to stay put for a time. In other words, when given the opportunity to move up in the organization, they decline. They tell me and their company’s leadership that they are happy where they are, doing what they are doing and don’t feel the need to change that.
Sometimes the desire to stop striving comes from exhaustion or burnout, but other times it comes from making a pro-active choice – a desire to enjoy and engage in the present. Perhaps the leader has young children at home and does not want to increase his travel schedule. Perhaps the leader is caring for aging parents requiring flexibility to travel back to her hometown several times a month, and she would give that up with a promotion. Or, perhaps the leader simply enjoys the work she is currently doing and is finally feeling settled and competent in her role. She doesn’t feel like shaking that up quite yet.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to set goals. I am simply saying that we don’t need to continually set the goals higher and higher. This type of behavior is self-defeating. High achieving leaders are typically focused solely on the “what’s next” and do not take the time to appreciate what’s now. Perhaps we can simply enjoy the view from the peak we have reached before setting off to climb to the next summit
If you ran a half-marathon this year for the first time, does that necessarily mean that you should be training for a marathon, or is it okay to say to yourself, “I am proud that I ran a half-marathon, and I enjoyed it. I am going to run a few more half-marathons before I decide if I want to train for a full marathon.”?
We need to remember that there is no right or wrong here. It is not always appropriate to move forward and to aim for something more, nor is it always correct to pause and hang out. When we pause, we learn patience, we learn gratitude and we learn to live in the present. When we set new goals, we honor our desire to grow, to develop and to contribute more.
Years ago, I wrote a blog post on the balance between feeling gratitude versus becoming complacent. In that blog, I said that we need to find the balance between feeling grateful for the present and the itch for something more. If you are always looking for more and only considering what’s next and what’s missing, it’s impossible to feel gratitude for what is. On the flip side, if you force yourself to only feel gratitude for your current circumstances without ever asking whether there is something more, that overblown sense of gratitude can become complacency and keep you stuck. Gratitude coupled with questioning serves as a foundation for the natural instinct for personal development to kick in.
So, with this in mind, perhaps you are grateful for where you are currently and when you ask yourself questions about that gratitude you realize that it is time to move on to the next goal. Or, you may find that rather than setting that next goal, you want to sit back and enjoy where you are now.
Given that there is not one single correct answer to this question of when it is right to set new goals and move forward, the most important thing to keep in mind is that leaders need to consider this question consciously. The danger lies in continuing to push and strive without consciously considering whether that is what we really want.
How do you know when it’s time to set new goals and when it is time to enjoy the present?