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Having spent the last few years building up Belleview Consulting, it was a bit sad to see the company shuttered while I was out on my recent maternity leave. Of course, as a solo practitioner, I had little choice so as part of my pre-leave planning I made plans to avoid similar situations in the future. I set myself a goal of exiting 2022 with a Belleview employee, or at least a clear path to getting there. While I might savor my time on leave, my return to work would mark a transition to growth and striving.
Then my leave happened and I found myself really missing the work that I do with my clients. Following through on my plan to expand the practice would inevitably mean less hands-on time with clients and I started to wonder if that was truly what I wanted. Just what was it that I actually wanted to savor as a working professional?
On the personal front, I have been told over and over again to savor each stage of my son’s development. This is in stark contrast to the advice I have received as a business owner. Our companies also grow and evolve but the messaging for founders tends to focus on racing as quickly as possible to more, bigger, and faster. With children and with companies, some stages are inevitably going to be more enjoyable than others but we have slightly more control over how quickly a company changes than we do a child. What if, when we found ourselves in a particularly enjoyable phase of company evolution, founders allowed ourselves to savor our contentment before pushing on?
Thoughts along these lines are hardly new for me. Despite their undeniable popularity, motivational speakers who push their audiences to always be dreaming bigger drive me a little bit bonkers. I am all in favor of striving to achieve your dreams (and finding the courage to dream them in the first place) but only if you happen to have a dream or feel a gap in your life. The question I personally tend to run up against is what happens when you hit that goal or achieve that dream? Often there is another goal or new dream ready and waiting but, every now and then, all that awaits us at the finish line is that elusive feeling of contentment. I would argue that those moments are too rare to squander.
Unfortunately, I often see a tendency to confuse “contentment” with “lack of ambition”. Particularly for individuals who have traditionally found themselves constantly pushing for the more, bigger, and faster, it can be disorienting to find that internal drive suddenly silent. In those moments, what matters most is *why* the drive has switched from acceleration to coasting.
Sometimes, this change in momentum is a signal that something is wrong. One of the ways I knew it was time to leave my last job was my decision to pass on pursuing a promotion opportunity. The idea of taking on more was completely overwhelming and just thinking about expanding my team’s scope made me feel like I was drowning. As someone who still wanted to pursue the more, bigger, and faster of corporate life, the sudden lack of motivation was a warning sign.
Coming back from maternity leave has felt completely different. Rather than an absence of ambition, I am finding myself deeply satisfied with the work that I am currently doing and simply less excited about shifting my daily commitments from practitioner to leader. Knowing myself, the day will come when I start to feel the itch to grow Belleview’s scope beyond what I can manage alone. But, for the moment, I am simply enjoying the fruits of my labor in building the business to its current state.
Given that I am a consultant whose clients are primarily companies experiencing growing pains or who are best described as victims of their own success, advocating for leaders to savor their successes rather than pushing to the next phase may seem like an odd position to take. But I will be the first to acknowledge that there will always be a pile of leaders and companies who are in strive mode, urged along by the current dream or goal. Others will have just ended a big push and need support settling into their current state so that savoring is actually an option. In short, I have no fear that my business will suffer just because content and happy people allow themselves to be content and happy.
Quite the contrary, I firmly believe that if more leaders take the time to savor their successes and bask in their contentment when they find it, the passion they will bring when they are ready to strive again will be unparalleled.