What do you do once you achieve your big goal and make it to the top? This can become a big problem if it looks like the only way you can go is down. Professional athletes and aging celebrities all face this issue. The problem can be one of maintaining the position if this is what you want or figuring out where to go next while avoiding a big let down.
There are various strategies for maintaining a position once you have achieved a milestone. Steve Rubel recently wrote about Jay Leno’s approach to avoiding complacency and constantly working hard to keep putting out great product – jokes in Leno’s case. So long as Leno is able to maintain the lead, he will be able to retire from the top spot at a time of his choosing – much like Johnny Carson did.
But what if you don’t want to stay in the same place? Or, what if there is too much competition like there is in professional sports so that retiring at a late age can never become a real option? What if your goal was a one shot thing like completing a marathon? Something much more common is meeting a weight-loss goal. Once a dieter reaches the magic number, he or she feels good about the accomplishment and no longer feels as motivated to work at it. This leads to the stressful and demoralizing yo-yo diet effect where large swings in weight can also lead to serious health consequences.
There are some excellent strategies for moving forward while avoiding the slippery downhill slope once you reach a big goal. The most successful strategies are all based on somehow growing as a person. These strategies are as follows:
- Set a new (bigger) goal. This works well in areas where there is room for expansion. It is a popular one for entrepreneurs with many who seem to bet the bank on the next bigger deal. There is always a bigger deal that can be made and the cycle can become endless.
- Move the original goalpost further out. Similar to the previous strategy except it is based on expanding the original goal rather than looking for a different bigger deal. For someone who has completed a marathon, the idea would be to work toward completing an overnight ultra-marathon.
- Fulfill an Unrelated Childhood Dream. Achievers often focus in an area while neglecting other interests. Once a big milestone has been achieved, why not go out and pursue a childhood passion? One of our colleagues did just that when he took two years out of the industrial equipment business to go and drive Greyhound buses through scenic routes. He would have done it for free since he dreamed of driving a big bus when he was a kid. He got his fill and went back into the industrial business rejuvenated having fulfilled his childhood dream.
- Quit. Yes, this might be a good option if you had to go through hell to achieve your goal. Suppose you bought and operated a small coal mine and now have a full bank account along with a bad case of black lung. Let’s say you’ve had a popular blog or program running for a few months or years and met your goals. Or have your third book published and are not super keen on writing a fourth one. It is often better to quit while you are ahead and leave on a high note. A completed goal does not need to automatically need to lead to a new one. Take a break, smell the roses and don’t worry about rushing into a big new adventure right away (if ever again).
- Join the Community. Let’s say you completed a marathon or met a weight-loss target. Join or stay with a club you already joined even if you don’t have a current goal. Help others achieve their goals and learn from your experiences. Chances are you’ll stay in shape and maybe set a new goal in the area if it serves your interests.
- Become a Sportscaster. Many athletes stay productive after achieving a big goal by getting involved in different activities that are in the area they love. This strategy basically involves staying in the loop.
- Don’t Let it Die a Slow Death. If you are finding that your career has peaked, be careful to avoid becoming a casualty of a slow painful death. Keep going, change goals, quit or stay involved in a different capacity but don’t achieve your goal and then let things slowly crumble because it could suck the life out of you in the process. Too many people experience the letdowns associated by passing their peak without having established someplace else to turn.
These strategies can also work for anyone who has not yet met a big goal or figures out there is no viable way to reach it. Make the necessary adjustments to the goals so they can become achievable. Gene Roddenberry hasn’t been to another planet but he built a Star Trek universe. He turned his dreams into reality in a way that was doable.
Our focus here is on those of us who have met one or more big goals. If the goal was a worthwhile one, it likely would have taken a great deal of effort, passion, time and money to complete. Setting and achieving big goals usually involves enormous personal growth. Once the goal has been met, the growth shouldn’t stop. Growth can be in the same area or in new areas. But be careful to avoid the opposite effect – personal shrink.