By Bob Karcher
There’s a statistic out there that haunts me. For more than two decades, the Gallup Organization has asked this question: At work, I get to do what I do best every day. Sadly, only twenty percent of us answer “YES” to that question.
That means that most of us have settled. We’re just doing stuff every day, and many leaders are OK with that. No one has to go the extra mile and complicate things by asking a lot of probing questions and figuring out how we tick.
It’s an endless loop: Work gets done, we go home and come back tomorrow, and more work gets done, and so on and so on. It’s not good for any of us to do it this way, but it continues, sometimes for a lifetime without any kind of intervention or change. And thus we have what can best be described as a comfortably numb workplace where everybody knows it could be better but nobody wants to take the time or risk to fix it. Could the majority of us be settling for “comfortably numb”?
For us as individuals, it takes a lot of courage to question all of this, to stop where we are and take stock, to learn about ourselves and what our strengths and weaknesses really are and what that means for us going forward. It’s true that knowledge is power, but it’s also true that knowing the truth requires us to act upon it. That’s difficult and it takes time and commitment on our part.
So, how do we fix this? First, I think we have to decide what success means for us. Not somebody else’s version, but our own unique definition. My wife, Susan, and I recently wrote a bestselling book called Who Are the Joneses Anyway? The title sounds sort of lighthearted, but the problem I address is deadly serious and I think is at least one of the root causes of the twenty percent problem.
It’s easy to compare ourselves to others. Perhaps your neighbor has a nicer car than yours, or a bigger house. Does that bother you? Does knowing that motivate you to do more? And, if it does, where does that ultimately lead?
For many of the leaders I work with, it meant they stopped dreaming and needed to reset. I’m sure you can imagine how naturally this happens. We turn off our dreamer and decide that we should get used to the rhythm of our reality. If you are on life’s treadmill and chasing a never-ending quest for money and things, there’s simply no time to dream. There’s only time to do.
I know this. I’ve been there. I did well, but I didn’t believe it was enough. And then one day it all came crashing down and I had to recalibrate. Though at the time it was tough, I look back now and see it as perhaps one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. It forced me to get off the hamster wheel of life and start over. I turned my dreamer back on. I found the one thing that I can devote my time, talent, and resources to and be fulfilled.
Everybody has that one thing, the mission we were wired to do in this world. Maybe you have found yours. If you have, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve experienced the joy that comes from not just a job well done, but a life well-lived.
But what if you are lacking that freeing sense of clarity and purpose? I have good news for you.
The Halftime Movement
Bob Buford wrote a bestselling book a few years ago called Halftime. In it he postulates this: We can and should all take a break in our life at some point to re-think our mission and our place in the world. Like a football team that comes off the field and takes an extended time out to strategize and make changes. Doing so can help us find out exactly what’s next.
The message was so well received that the book has been read by millions, and the Halftime Institute was launched to help people recalibrate for their next season.
Here’s what we’ve learned: Finding work with a purpose requires a pause. And that pause can happen several times in our lives because our mission and our focus can change. When it does, we have to stop and figure out the way forward. That’s complicated work, but vital in living a life of purpose and not just living.
As a Master Certified Halftime Coach at Halftime Institute, I have the pleasure of walking alongside men, women, and couples that are taking the time to reimagine their lives. They are changing their game plans to win at what truly matters to each of them uniquely.
And what has been amazing is that this re-calibration hasn’t meant a mass exodus from the business sector. Over sixty percent of the leaders who come through our programs stay engaged in the marketplace, albeit with a greater sense of purpose and a roadmap for impact.
Some of the first questions we ask are these: “If it was ten years from now and you were living your perfect second half, how would you know? What would it feel like? What would you be doing?”
How would you answer these questions? It’s important because answering them will help you find your purpose and what’s next and those answers will impact not only your work but also all of your relationships – with your spouse, your kids, and your friends. Leaders who find work with purpose dream big for a fully integrated life where they are seeing impact and joy in every area. They courageously ask the hard questions that help them gain clarity and the transparency it takes to reveal blind spots. They then decide what to do with the answers they’ve arrived at and they take action. That’s where the real joy and fulfillment comes from – getting clear on what is most important and then taking action on it.
So what does this mean for you? Could you benefit from a purposeful pause to recalibrate? Take my advice having done the hard work of introspection, planning, and accountability – it is far more rewarding than you can imagine.
Take the time. Make the effort. Don’t settle for comfortably numb. Be the courageous leader you are.
Bob Karcher is Vice President of Global Coaching for the Halftime Institute. He, along with his wife Susan, are coauthors of the bestselling book Who Are the Joneses Anyway?. They reside in Southern California. Bob can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org