After the Big Project: Recovering From Success

My older daughter got married 10 days ago. The wedding was a joyous and extraordinary experience, way beyond our imaginings. I am deeply happy about all of this, and feel strongly validated by the whole experience.

On a project level, the wedding was a very satisfying culmination of a huge team effort. The logistics worked perfectly - the months of intensive work and the last several weeks of even more intensive (possibly crazy) work paid off.

So, what happens after an experience like this? After you get the job, have the baby, launch the global initiative, publish the book, or finish the house renovations? As your life gradually returns to "normal," you assimilate the new experience into your sense of your self. You let it in. You acclimate to the new altitude, look around, see what's different, what's the same. But mostly, you're exhausted and depleted. You need a period of recovery.

Achievers forget this so easily. You are groomed to be industrious and effective, but not to allow for recovery or transition between projects.

Let me share something with you from deep inside the experience of recovery. It's challenging. I know I'm exhausted at a deep level, and I'm taking care of myself in ways (I have learned) that work for me. Now that I've caught up on sleep, I'm keeping my schedule light -- refraining from filling my calendar. And I'm explicitly re-charging my batteries in a variety of ways. But I'm chafing. I'm judging my relative inactivity. I'm annoyed at myself for not having the energy or enthusiasm for a new project. Now, mind you, as a coach I KNOW this territory of transition! I know there's typically an energy drop after a big project, a letdown, that there is a rhythm to these things and it makes sense to work WITH the rhythms. I regularly coach other people through transitions, and it's still hard. Bottom line, it's just a lot more fun to be onto the next big project. And I'm not there yet.

How hard is it for you to recover from the culmination of a huge project or life-event? And what's it like for the other people in your life - your staff, your family, your boss? Most of us expect ourselves to bounce forward from challenge to challenge without letup. (And certainly there are times in our lives when no letup is possible.) But the most efficient way to climb a mountain is NOT to just charge straight up it, non-stop. Less experienced climbers are more likely to attempt the straight-up route, and they are prone to early burnout, injury, devastating fatigue.

The most efficient way to climb a mountain is to take it in stages. Between stages, experienced climbers stop, eat, sleep, rest, and adjust to the new altitude. Many of us want to take our lives as a non-stop mountain climb, when in fact we are better served to stop from time to time and recover from the last stage of the climb.

Sometimes all that's required is to keep your schedule light after a big deadline. To plan a weekend at a bed and breakfast after the proposal is due, after the product launch, after you deliver the copy to the printer, after your son's last college application is due. Or to seriously under-promise what you will deliver in the few weeks after a major push. Try it. You may find that, like me, you chafe at the slower pace. But your high energy will return more quickly if you allow yourself the full process of recovery.

If you find yourself perpetually drained and without energy for projects you truly care about, you may need to make some important course corrections in your career or work-life balance. Contact me for an initial consultation at no charge.

Copyright 2004, Sharon Teitelbaum.

Sharon Teitelbaum is a Work-Life and Career Coach who works with high achieving women with young children, people at mid-career, and professionals seeking greater career satisfaction or work-life balance. Her book, Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: Restoring Work-Life Balance, is available at her website, http://www.STcoach.com.

Certified as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Sharon works by phone with clients around the world and in-person in Boston.

She delivers keynotes and workshops on work-life balance issues, has been in national publications including The New York Times and Working Mother Magazine, and has appeared on cable and network television. She publishes Strategies for Change, a newsletter offering practical tips for work-life success.

Sharon has been married for 30 years and is the mother of two amazing young women. You can contact her here.

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