It’s the first day of winter, and I’m sitting in a cafe with a client…
What if You Saddled Up Instead of Settling?
As entrepreneurs or business owners we usually start our business with a grand vision in mind. A life of purpose and meaning, and a better life for loved ones.
We saddle up our trusty steed and set to work on our business goals. We ride some of them down. Money comes in, business thrives, and our family has an enviable lifestyle. Life is good. We become less driven, have less to achieve and put our steed out to pasture as our vision shrinks under the weight of the day to day.
Achieving a goal, large or small, delivers a feel-good dopamine ‘spike’ in our brains. We feel great … for a short while, then the ‘spike’ loses its sharpness, and we revert to our previous state of mind.
After winning that first big client, nailing that first big contract the ‘spike’ we get from business is never as strong again. The wins that follow feel diminished, less worth the effort.
We want another ‘spike’, so we look for the next thing to achieve, the next dent to make. And when we get it we find the ‘spike’ was not quite as sharp, the lift not quite as long. So we do it again. And again.
Until we burn out and the effort to saddle up one more time becomes too much.
And we settle.
A truth of life is that achieving goals comes with diminishing returns especially if they come mainly from one area of our life. Constantly chasing the ‘spike’ is tiring. Especially when the goals start to lose meaning.
This is called Hedonic Adaption – first recognised way back in 1971 this theory says as we achieve more goals and become more successful our expectations also rise resulting in a new, higher ‘norm’, which results in diminishing our happiness at each new achievement.
The ‘spike’ dulls each time.
This new ‘norm’ means that we either get back on the horse and chase more similar short-term goals so we can ‘spike’ more often with less effort, or we settle for less.
There is another way to settle – one that does not dull the ‘spike’.
That is when we truly answer: “How much is enough?”
When we have in fact done enough, achieved enough and no longer need to saddle up. We develop different goals and priorities – we have a different horse to put our saddle on. We don’t really settle – we just ride more wisely.
“How much is enough?” The answer to this question changes as our life does because the answer to it is not just about money or things. It is about time and relationships, pain and loss, health and fun, personal development and learning.
Our mistake lies in believing that we have to always strive to be bigger, better, stronger, to own more, to be busier than others and more important than most.
Under this mistake the chase for the ‘spike’ keeps us riding a steed past its purpose. But the ‘spikes’ continue to lessen.
This is the difference between settling and saddling up – our current goals. Too much focus on short term goals or the wrong goals results in settling due to burn out.
We need to decide what our ultimate outcome is and saddle up to ride ‘that’ horse. This horse will be different for us all and strongly affected by where we are in our life cycle. Often there is a different horse for each life phase. Perhaps just one favoured steed.
For me, my horse is the one I call, Freedom. Freedom to help my family and friends. Freedom to travel, to be the healthiest I can, to love those nearest and dearest to me and to keep on learning and growing as a person and intellectually. It is no longer money or prestige. Power or influence just … freedom.
Your horse will be different. You may be too burnt out to saddle up again for the moment. You may be too caught up chasing the ‘spike’ to change horses. You may just be unsure of what horse is yours to ride now.
Whatever horse you choose just remember the choice is the same – do I settle or do I saddle up?
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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