You've done something you always wanted to do. You've made your company proud. You've outdone yourself. Right? Congratulations. Now, I'm betting you are finding yourself smack up against the "letdown effect," the one where you run the half-marathon and then celebrate with 14 days of doughnuts and sleeping in. The one where you win the contract or achieve the sales goal, then find yourself slacking off for weeks afterward. The one where your to-do list suddenly has nothing on it, and it's hard to get motivated.
I know all about that. I just published my fourth book, which was accompanied by lots of media and a launch party in my hometown of San Diego. And after the trumpets stop blaring and the confetti is swept off the floor--then what? My experience tells me I may be heading for a period of--and this is a technical term--"blah."
The Harvard Business Review has a more sophisticated word for it: "withdrawal." Just like when you quit smoking, your body has gotten used to the adrenaline of a goal and a deadline. As the article memorably puts it: "We picture the exhilaration of reaching new heights ... once we've scaled that mountain, it can be surprisingly chilly on the other side."
Fortunately, I packed a down jacket for that chill. I have a three-step plan to get back in the game of being the achiever that I and all of us like to think we can be on our best days. Care to join me?
Step 1: Admit that you're in a slump.
It's OK, really! The easiest way to become burned out is to stubbornly refuse to admit that burnout is in your future. So don't do it. Plan for the letdown effect just the way you planned for everything else. Give yourself a moment to rejoice in your victory, relax into it, and take a little mental break from the hard-charging existence you've been living while you were striving to reach your goal. Give yourself a fixed amount of time, from hours to weeks, when you don't expect yourself to do anything huge.
Step 2: Dream and imagine, but don't set a new goal yet.
There is no better time to think outside your normal box of competencies than right after you got something done. Your self-esteem ought to be at a high level, and people's expectations of you ought to be pretty solid, right? So use that time wisely: not by fretting that people will want that all-out adrenaline rush from you every day--but by leveraging your newly earned street cred to ensure your next act will be doing big things--things you love--in the service of people who will love what you're doing.
Step 3: Now, set that new goal.
You should be tanned, rested, and very ready at this point. Yes, you probably have stuff to do that might have been set aside while you achieved that aforementioned goal. Don't let that slide any more than you have to. But seize the moment anyway. Make that new goal, get your people on board with it, rinse, and repeat what you did that worked before.
Everybody loves a winner, but what really wins in business in particular and life as a whole is not the sprinter who burns out, but the one who sets a more measured pace and goes the distance. Always build the R&R time into your goal, not as the "thing that happens after" but as an integral part of your plan for success. I know I do.
I'm going to start that next book any minute now -- as soon as I'm done with this little Netflix binge.