In a recent coaching session, the CEO I was working with suddenly looked up and said in surprise “Do you remember that nagging feeling I used to have – it’s gone!”.
When we started working together he described how he had a really good life, he enjoyed his job, was very well paid, was happily married and had great kids but something didn’t feel quite right. He couldn’t really explain it or put his finger on what it was – he just knew that something was off.
A lot of the people I work with describe some kind of ‘gnawing’ or ‘nagging’ feeling – of not being quite satisfied, or a sense that something isn’t enough or that something is missing. This is usually something they don’t really understand as their life looks good – IS good.
These are CEOs, business founders or C suite executives – typically in their 40s and 50s – motivated and successful people who’ve achieved a lot in their careers. From the outside, their lives look great, but somehow it doesn’t feel enough or satisfying any more.
A common reaction to this nagging feeling
Many people ignore this feeling or distract themselves from it. Often they double down and work even harder – setting themselves a new goal or challenge, hoping that this will be the answer (it never is!). Or they stay so busy that they forget about it for a while.
But I promise you – that feeling is trying to tell you something. Something important. And busyness or distraction is not going to make it go away.
What this nagging feeling means
If you have this feeling, what exactly it means for you I can’t tell you. It will be unique to you. But chances are it’s an indication that you aren’t living your life in a way that’s quite right for you. Maybe it used to be, but isn’t any longer. Or maybe it never really was.
You may well be doing things or going after things you THINK will make you happy but are not in fact doing so. Or are not making you as happy, content or fulfilled as you could be.
Maybe achievements feel a bit empty or not as satisfying as they used to. Or the buzz from achieving the next goal is short lived and you find yourself repeatedly looking for the next thing.
Perhaps something is out of alignment. How you’re living your life and spending your time doesn’t match your values – what is actually most important to you. Things might be out of balance – with you not getting enough time or energy for certain parts of your life. It’s very common for high achievers to have gradually neglected parts of themselves or their life because they’ve been so busy with work and other demands.
It’s also not unusual when I ask people I coach what they really enjoy doing, for them to not really know anymore. When you’ve spent most of your time and energy for a really long time on work (and perhaps also on family), we can easily end up losing touch with our own needs, what makes us feel alive, energised or happy. We’ve somehow got disconnected from this. It’s like a muscle that’s withered because we’ve stopped using it.
Or perhaps deep down you yearn for more meaning or purpose or a greater sense of fulfilment. To use your talents and experience to make a difference in some way.
Is it worth figuring it out?
But in this busy, fast-paced world with so many demands on our time, is it really worth the effort of trying to unravel these deeper questions? Does it actually get you anywhere or is it just over-thinking or navel gazing?
The answers to this are a definitive yes – it’s worth it!
Being with and working through these questions and feelings, while not always comfortable or easy, generally results in greater clarity about what you really want, and leads to more ease or enjoyment, more time and focus on what’s truly important or a greater sense of fulfilment.
The client I mentioned at the start, for example, emailed me at the end of our coaching saying:
“I have gained a huge amount from the coaching journey. I’m approaching the next phase of my life with much more clarity and confidence and I feel a lot more at ease in myself and more content”.
Your path to what’s right for you
If you want to live a life that is truly right for you, your own inner wisdom is the best sat nav you will ever find to guide you there. To a life well lived.
So, my recommendation is to pay attention to your gut or inner knowing when it gives you these hints. Really listen. Spend some time with the questions, the feelings and what they are telling you.
But this does mean being willing to create space – to quieten your busy mind and slow down for long enough so you can actually hear what your gut or inner wisdom has to say. To be with it, rather than pushing down or avoiding the uncomfortable feelings or distracting yourself with being busy. Not something that is always comfortable for high-achieving, action-oriented, driven people!
But most things that are really worthwhile in life aren’t easy. So I’d encourage you to sit with the unknown, the questions and possibly some uncomfortable feelings.
Your life is worth it. YOU are worth it.