The dreaded Doldrums – the place where, Milo, the boy in Norman Juster’s classic children’s book the Phantom Tollbooth learns that “no one’s allowed to think, laughter is frowned upon and smiling is permitted only on alternate Thursdays…and most of one’s time is spent is brooding, lagging, plodding and procrastinating” – is as much of a natural part of the cycle as any other phase. And although it’s the phase we dread the most, it is, as we will come to learn, a very rich place of learning, transition and change. Yet sooner or later we all land there for a time. When you find you have realized your dream – you have a great family, a fabulous and positively challenging role in your organization, a beautiful home and other symbols of success and you find yourself saying – “Is this all there is?!?!” – you will know you are in The Doldrums.
Much like when precious metals lose their luster and their shine unless polished, your career may be shining and enormously satisfying right now and you can’t imagine it being otherwise, but unless you keep revising, polishing and honing it; it, too, will at some point along your journey become dull and less interesting to you. Even with attention and care there will come a natural time when it’s simply not as satisfying, it’s not enough, and you begin to thirst for something new and different.
What’s interesting and almost universally true is at the same time when you lose interest in your journey and life has lost its shine, we are also likely to deny our growing discontent and resist making any changes. It’s almost a homeostatic response to any potential threat of change – our natural inclination is to want to “freeze” life as it is. We seem most comfortable holding onto what we know, even in the midst of our growing dissatisfaction.
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