It was pretty clear I was desperate for something, and looking back on that time, I see that the weeks preceding my reset were filled with an almost frantic search for some miracle cure.
Right after the January 4 anniversary of my mom’s death, I jetted off for Dallas, where I would keynote for Deloitte at its 800-bed hotel and state-of-the-art meeting center. Sadly, it was the same hotel where I’d keynoted a year earlier — the day after my mom died. There I was, a year later, in the same place with the same people, my heart and soul in an even darker place because I now knew the crippling dimensions of grief.
It was my darkest moment. I was lost — truly lost.
Hot coals weren’t enough. Nothing was enough. I had hit my emotional rock bottom.
I contemplated getting antidepressants, but it was there in Dallas, in my deepest moments of despair, that it hit me.
I suddenly knew exactly what I had to do.
I’d pull a Forrest Gump. On the beach.
I would put myself back together.
I made the decision at 2 a.m. that Sunday morning, and I came up with a plan. I flew home that afternoon, and I started walking the next day. I was ready for my reset.
It was the most significant thing I have ever done in my life. It was my greatest gift to myself.
There comes a time when you pack up and go. You apply for a new job, you get it, and you start a new adventure.
But do you always have to move on in order to reset?
What if you aren’t ready?
What if you don’t know what you want to do next?
What if there are financial considerations that can’t be ignored? Or if there is so much going on at home that a job change is out of the question?
Is there any way to salvage a job or career that may be dragging you down? Maybe it’s because the company is in turmoil, or because a new boss isn’t all that great or your coworkers are nasty or negative, or because you’ve gotten bored.
You may have legitimate reasons for wanting to stay put. You’ve got too much invested. You’re too close to retirement. You like your company, but you’re getting bored with your actual job.
If your situation is not going to get better with the reset solutions in this chapter, open up to the possibility that reset, for you, may mean moving on. Sometimes you need a reset because your workplace is the problem — not your work. You are entitled to enjoy what you do, and when you realize that the bad days are outnumbering the good, you need to take action.
But for many, there is the possibility of a reset at work, where you stay put, but you change what you can change. There are things you can do when your profession fills you with purpose, but your work environment doesn’t.
There is a huge difference between someone who is passionate about work and someone who is a workaholic. A workaholic can’t take a time-out because that break makes them uncomfortable. Off duty, they compulsively check their phones for e-mails, texts, or other work prompts. They pride themselves on working through their illnesses and never taking vacations. Control is so important to them that they can’t let go or delegate to others because they are certain that anyone else will screw things up. They do all of this at the expense of living. Family is supposedly important, but when it comes to choosing a baseball game or recital over more work, they choose work. Or they take work with them so they can be present physically, but they’re definitely not there emotionally.
A Wayne State University study on the personality traits of workaholics found that a lot of workaholics have an unrealistic sense of self-importance regarding who they are and what they are accomplishing. They believe that, without their contribution, everything will fall apart at work. They also have an unrealistic need for perfection that makes them need to achieve it in order to view themselves as valuable or worthwhile.
Are you happy working like you are working? Because your relationship with work is a choice. Most of us have to do something in order to pay the bills. But just how deep we dive in is something we control, with choices about how much we want to work or how much we spend (requiring us to get the right-sized paycheck).
Don’t buy into the whole martyr hierarchy, where the person who works twice as many hours is twice as important. Not true. What does it mean to humanity when one person spends 60 hours scouring purchase orders and another spends only 40? Is the 60-hour person more critical to the fabric of humanity? No.
You can’t assume the person who works fewer hours than you is a slacker any more than that person can assume you’re out of balance and one-dimensional. And vice versa.
For some, work is what provides inner balance.
My father worked as a pharmacist until he was 84. He already had what he wanted and needed, but I know that the final years of his career kept him alive because his work gave his life purpose. He didn’t want to retire.
It is pretty common for people to think that their way is the best way. That you should react and respond as they would. That what motivates them should motivate you. So if you are more motivated to work than your colleagues, don’t judge them, because you don’t want them to judge you, either. Your right to work a 60-hour week is only as valid as the next person’s right to work 40.
I don’t want to show you how to reset your life so yours can be just like mine. You don’t need to be living my life — I do. I don’t need to be living your life — you do.
You don’t need to be living according to anyone else’s definition of purpose and fulfillment. The only thing that matters is what you think and how you set your boundaries to honor what matters to you.
There are always times in life when we are way out of balance. Just ask an air conditioner repairman in the middle of August or the parent of a newborn. That’s how it goes. But over time, if you realize you are living in a single dimension and that is not enough, look inside yourself. Are you deliberately making choices about how you are spending your life? Have you set the necessary boundaries that can give you more control? Are you living by design or by default?