What does an astronaut do after they have already had their career peak experience? What does a former President, Olympic athlete, presidential appointee, or executive director do after what they have had what they (and perhaps others) believe to be their seminal career experience? It is an awe-inspiring honor to have these roles, but for most people they have an ending. They don’t last for the remaining decades of your life. So what do you do next?
Some people really struggle with depression or risk conducting adrenalin-inducing behaviors, but it doesn’t have to be that way. A few of my clients have faced these experiences and built lives they love. I think there’s some good advice to be found here for all of us in some of the strategies they have used.
1) Savor the success - Being an elite athlete, CEO or elected official have at least two things in common. They require enormous daily time commitments that leave little room for anything else. As soon as one achievement is met or challenge overcome, the next one appears with little time to recognize successes. Sometimes it can be helpful to stop, write down and look back at those moments.
2) Take a break and refresh - That time problem in #1 above? Yeah, it’s exhausting. A few months at the crazy-making pace — no less a few years — can make someone feel a special kind of fried. It’s a great idea to take some time to stare at the sea, paint a painting, sleep until noon, live without a schedule, or play with small children. Spend some time doing what refreshes you. Not sure what that is? Then this is actually your step 1.
3) Share the experience and teach others - Very few people get to have these peak experiences and so few get to learn the lessons they offer. The best the rest of us can hope for is that those who learn them share them, whether in a classroom, from a speaking stage, or a book. The sharing of this knowledge is critical to continuing the legacy they have built. Even for those of us in more traditional roles, sharing the knowledge we gain is part of how we both help those who come after us and how we extend our impact.
4) Climb another mountain - But for many, the solution is to find a new mountain to climb. Taking local work to the state or national level. Moving to a new sphere, like how astronaut John Glenn went from space to the US Senate. What makes a new mountain attractive is the challenge. The trick is to discover what the right next mountain is.