To the outside world it looks like you have it all. You are the CEO of a successful business. You have the reputation. The status. The profile. Doors open for you. Money isn’t an issue. You are part of a world most people will never have access to.
But are you actually happy?
Are you spending your time how you would like? If you were to list all the things you do in a typical day or week – how much of it really energises you, gives you a buzz, gets you wanting to jump out of bed?
Or do you find yourself doing a lot of things you feel you ‘have’ to do? Are you inundated with requests from people because of who you are and what you do?
Entrepreneur first & CEO second
It is much more likely you will find yourself in this situation if you have created the business yourself (or perhaps have created many businesses). If you are an entrepreneur first and a CEO second.
Almost all of the clients I work with are in this situation. They are successful entrepreneurs and business founders who are running a business (or businesses) but many are not really enjoying what they do day-to-day that much anymore or want to have a greater sense of purpose or meaning in what they do.
They are spending a lot of time doing things for others, for the business, but not nearly as much time on what they really ‘want’ to do or would choose to do. They are no longer really getting that same entrepreneurial buzz that you get from creating something, building something, making it a success.
Recognising the issue
Some of my clients had been feeling like this for quite a while but hadn’t made any significant changes in their lives or work.
One of the challenges with this situation is that the change in focus and how you are spending your time typically happens gradually and so is often harder to recognise when it is no longer really working for you. It often creeps up on you without you necessarily being fully aware of the impact it can have on your mood, your motivation, your levels of enjoyment and fulfilment.
The other factor is that if you are really busy with traveling and the day-to-day demands of running the business, you often don’t have the headspace to really get clear on whether how you are living your life is working for you. You may have a nagging feeling that things could be better or different but may not have fully acknowledged it to yourself or know what exactly to do about it. For most people it’s easier to stay busy, to distract or ’numb’ yourself with work than to ask yourself the tough questions.
It’s also really hard to talk to anyone about this. How many people can you have an honest conversation about the fact that despite achieving all you ever wanted, you’re actually not that happy?
Asking the tough questions
If you know that being the CEO isn’t really making you that happy or you might just have a niggling suspicion that this might be the case, the key thing is to pause and to step out of your day-to-day environment to get the headspace required to go within, ask yourself some tough questions and get clarity.
We can’t change what we’re not aware of, so the first step is to create some space to ask yourself important questions like – is what I’m doing making me happy? Is what I do day-to-day meaningful and important to me? Do I feel energised, positive and motivated by what I do?
So what happens if that quiet, knowing voice inside tells you that no – being the CEO isn’t actually making you that happy? The reality is the solution isn’t a quick fix. In my experience of working with people in this situation, the answers are very personal and unique to the individual – specific to their situation, personality, values, motivations and interests.
My clients though have found many ways to honour the part of them which is not fulfilled or truly happy and to create a life and work that they really want. This has ranged from the radical and dramatic, to simply adapting their role to make it suit them better.
But it all starts with the question – is this this making me happy – and really listening to the answer.