The “Golden Handcuffs”. You know what I’m talking about …
More and more I am meeting high-achieving women and men, who are seeking business AND family success. That means they no longer are willing to sacrifice the importance of a healthy life for their career.
And many of these are Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Is this you?
Having worked in corporate for over 30 years I was among people who believed they had to stay in their jobs because they were holding out for the Gold Watch. Yet … they were feeling trapped. Earning a great income and building a good pension, many believed this was the path they chose and so they were stuck until retirement. It’s too late to change now. As roles and responsibilities grew, so did the hours of work … long days and work on weekends. The Gold Watch quickly became the “Golden Handcuffs”.
I was one of those people. My father worked for a company he was devoted to for 36 years and I, for the same company, for 30. Ouch! The time flies very quickly, doesn’t it?? The appeal, of what I believed I could count on, was very strong. Add to that, confidence, the best route to success involves getting a good education and a good reliable job where I could spend the next 25-30 years securely climbing the ever-beckoning ladder of success.
For those of us “rule followers” and “people pleasers” this path makes sense… until it doesn’t.
An unexpected transition or life event often triggers a much-needed kick in the a$$ or wake-up call!
AT WORK: You’ve been downsized and find yourself without a job; you’re disenchanted with where you are at this stage of your life and career; the company makes a significant change that doesn’t appear to respect the loyalty you have freely provided for the last 15+ years; You are once again asked to take on more with no additional rewards (pay or level).
In the beginning, it was exciting for me to earn a spot in the same company as my Dad. (Incognito of course, with a different last name!) The prospect of being a long-term employee was enticing. It meant two-way security, stability, loyalty and pride “in my mind”.
For most of those years, while I was learning, growing and taking on increased responsibility it was great. Inspiring even! My best years were spent building and leading the most amazing team of Customer Service Professionals. Together we created a world-class model for our work that became the benchmark for our global company.
Working hard, putting in increasingly long hours, and over time, sacrificing precious moments at home with my family. All for good reason I thought. I was contributing to our family income and was making a difference. Have you been there too?
I continued to invest way above and beyond to prove that I was worthy of the next promotion or opportunity. Or of even getting noticed. I discovered that collaboration was promoted, yet competition was rewarded. While a carrot for many, competition was not my gig.
AT HOME: Your kids have become more independent and no longer require your minute-by-minute availability; you’ve experienced divorce, marriage, a milestone birthday, a health setback or the loss of a loved one. All of this makes you wonder “what’s next?” or “is this all there is? What am I waiting for?”
Have you, like me, realized that your children grew up way faster than you ever imagined and you now realize those moments you missed because of work can not be recovered? There’s no time to feel guilty … NOW is time to move forward and make the most of the time you have today.
Have you, like me, realized you’ve been bringing your best self to work at the expense of bringing your best self back home again? Or is your best self (no matter where) exhausted, irritable or unmotivated?
What I know for sure is although the company thrives, many long-term loyal employees are feeling a lack of challenge and purpose and becoming burned out. Can you relate?
Have you reached a plateau in your career? As a high-achieving professional, how inspired are you going to feel as you face the likelihood of coasting for the next few years, being the “go to” person on your team? Will that be enough to motivate and challenge you?
As I focused on keeping the status quo, I became tired. Tired of …
- being tethered to someone else’s agenda day in and day out
- saying “… here we go again” as we relive the same old issues under different leadership
- the long unfulfilling hours, eating breakfast and lunch at my desk
- feeling underutilized, undervalued and underappreciated
- being so fiercely loyal to the company that I sometimes put it ahead of my family
- knowing the company is not and can not be as loyal to me… it really is business first
- the Sunday afternoon blues and panic attacks
- the strained relationships at home, hanging on by a thread because I wasn’t fully present when I needed to be
- feeling sick and tired and overwhelmed
- wondering where this would take me
This overwhelming feeling of exhaustion became a diagnosis of depression for me. This was my wake-up call. My kick in the a$$.
To be clear, I don’t blame my illness on my job or the company I worked for. I’m not beating myself up for getting into a state of depression. Been there, done that.
Today, I am grateful that my body finally spoke loud enough for me to listen and do something about it. It began a new, exciting journey of personal reflection, aligned direction and care and compassion for me … the person I so neglected for a very long time. It fueled me to get back in the driver’s seat and realize I have a full and enriching life ahead of me.
I know if this was my experience, there are many others experiencing something similar. Women (and men) continue working too hard and living too little.
We work so hard on our careers that:
- we lose sight of the dreams we had for ourselves and our families.
- we let the time we spend at work surpass the time we spend with our families and friends.
- we follow the company rules while we fall out of alignment with our own.
- we count on others (managers, peers, friends) for validation of our success.
- we allow others to identify what “should be” important to us.
- we know all too well the core values of our employer yet lose sight of our own core values – those things that are meant to guide our actions and keep us grounded in what matters most to us at the deepest levels.
- we let the Golden Handcuffs limit our ability to see what else could be possible
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15-20 years in to your career, are you energized by the prospects ahead of you or wondering how to get in the driver’s seat and shift gears?
Are you ready to define what lies ahead for you and get back in the driver’s seat?
Are you ready to be free of feeling sick and tired all the time?
Are you ready to get out of Over OR Underwhelm?
Are you ready to adjust what’s working and what’s not working for you today?
Are you ready to spend more time on activities that bring you joy and energy?
Are you ready to unlock the Golden Handcuffs and look for Golden Opportunities?
If you said YES! to any of the above …
It’s time to refocus & reprioritize what matters to you so that you can write your next chapter and start living it with “no regrets”.
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