I made it! So… why aren’t things easier?

Blog | March 21, 2022

Are we there yet? The myth of arrival

“I hear congratulations are in order,” I greeted Lauren, a client who’d recently ascended to VP-level—the next required step on the way to the role she really wanted, Chief Strategic Officer.

Her closed mouth grimaced into a half-smile, lips tight. “Yeah, it’s great…” she said, her voice trailing off. I waited.

“Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things happening,” Lauren hedged. “I don’t want to seem ungrateful.”

“I’ve got a bigger team, more high-profile projects… And the pay bump is a plus. I mean, this is what I wanted. It’s good. Great, really…” 

Lauren paused, and then heaved a sigh. 

Except. There’s even more to do now,” she admitted crossly. “I mean, I finally figured out how to let my reports really take the ball and run with it in my last role—you helped me with that.

(Right, that, the sexiest word in the English language, that everyone thinks is Leadership 101, and yet hardly anyone does well: delegation. Especially the high-achieving producers who typically land the highest ranks in the company.)

“Which is part of how I got VP, right? But now? I have to work with all these high-level people across the company. With their own teams and priorities.” 

“I always thought when I reached this level, it would feel special. Like I’d finally arrived,” Lauren said. “It’s not what I expected.” 

I’ve heard similar sentiments from leaders at all levels. The disappointment and frustration—even guilt—when we reach a goal, but it doesn’t feel like we thought it would.

The truth is, the problems we thought would go away once we got the thing—the new role, the new team member, the new company even—don’t disappear. If anything, the relationships are more complex and nuanced at this level, the issues can be even gnarlier.

Arrival is a myth. A state of nirvana is not waiting for us after that next achievement.

Even that, the attainment of Nirvana within Buddhism, is a moving target. There is no moment where you’ve arrived and everything is blissed-out and perfect. Even after enlightenment (I hear 🙂 ), we’re still human, with desires and challenges and responsibilities, conflicts and tensions that need to be resolved. As the saying goes:

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment… chop wood, carry water.”

In other words, no one is coming with champagne and balloons. You’re never “done.”

Which can be confusing and frustrating, especially when we’ve made sacrifices to get where we are. What helps to anchor us in these moments, is to remember our big why, the inner driver, purpose, or priority that propels us forward.

And if finding your why, your purpose, your priority, is eluding you, start here: 

Why did you pursue the goal in the first place?

What’s important to you about your role?

What do you want to get from your work?

What’s really at stake for you beyond the immediate result you want?

For example, a goal may be a larger role, but the related driver is likely around what it affords you. So, it may be: more quality time with family; more impactful contributions to causes you believe in; more control at work; more prestige; more influence over the company direction. 

Only you know what drives you. Drivers are bigger than outcomes. So, if it feels like you’re waiting to “arrive,” check in with your guiding principles.

The highest-performing leaders have a sounding board and trusted advisor to help explore these questions, and more. Schedule a complimentary discovery call with one of our coaches today to learn more.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant