We all have major goals that we believe once achieved will lead to lasting success, happiness and fulfillment. We’ve committed to an action plan, dedicated our energy, time and resources and diligently pursued them over the course of years or even decades. These goals become the major driving force in our lives and are the basis for the framework for how we live. Achieving the goal, whether a long sought-after promotion, starting a business, a certain lifestyle, or a gold medal elicits in us an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and exhilaration. Seeing a dream fulfilled gives us a high and a sense of satisfaction – at least in the beginning. However, over time people who achieve long-term goals can often find themselves in a surprising and strange place of doubt and confusion. They no longer need the framework that got them where they are, and they are wondering: what’s next?
How do you find what’s next after achieving a major goal?
We won’t find the answer to what is next outside of ourselves. The journey starts by taking a lesson from the philosopher Socrates. Socrates claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living. There is much wisdom to be gained in examining your life, even a success-filled one. As human beings we are hard-wired to reflect, contemplate, explore and examine what brings purpose, significance and meaning to our lives. By living a well-examined life we can discern the way forward, and create a new framework through which we can view our lives and start the journey anew.
Examining your life requires the courage to ask the big, challenging and sometimes uncomfortable questions. Through questioning we learn what is being asked of us and what we want to ask of ourselves.
Our willingness to engage in that level of introspection will make the world around us more understandable at the deepest levels. This new and deeper understanding will highlight and bring into focus things that were just outside of our view and obscured by our pursuit of the original goal. The traits that enabled you to succeed the first time can be built upon to bring you future and sustainable success in another aspect of your life.
Once you have taken the time to celebrate your accomplishment and have enjoyed the view from where you are, you are ready to begin to find out what’s next in your life. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Shift your focus quickly from the not knowing, step back from the rat race, and take some downtime. Taking well-deserved downtime will enable you to begin reflecting on your past, thinking about the present, and envisioning the future.
- Enjoy the opportunity during the downtime to devote yourself and your time to things that are not immediately productive. This is not time wasted. By contrast, focusing on things that are not immediately productive can lead to higher pursuits.
- Be willing to experiment with the most outrageous ideas you come up with. It is only an experiment, and the value is in the learning. Contemplate and examine life choices and ideas that always intrigued you but you never had the time nor the ability to try before. For ideas, go back to some of the dreams you had in childhood that were lost when you grew up.
- Pursue things that lead you to develop self-awareness and challenge your mind and spirit.
- Engage with others in ways you were not able to in the past. Share your talents and experiences and be open to learning from theirs.
- Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, embrace the reality that achieving a goal – even one that fulfills a life long dream or ambition – isn’t meant to be the end. It is an opportunity to discover new dimensions of who you are and transcend where you are now.
There is not a set formula other than to be willing to undergo the process of creating a well-examined life. The success you achieve depends on how willing you are to challenge yourself and move beyond the success you have already earned. By embarking on this new journey, you remove the chance and randomness in discovering what your new guiding principle and framework is. Life will only get better and be more fulfilling when you find your new passion or way of enhancing the success you already have.
I invite you all on this journey, and look forward to hearing your thoughts, insights and strategies for discovering what’s next for you. By sharing these in the comment field we can all learn from each other.