In supporting any leader over time, there is almost always a moment when he or she hits a lull. That passion that drove your focus so powerfully—to the point of forgetting meals for example, up and eager as dawn breaks—becomes foggy. Distressingly flat. It feels like something must be dangerously wrong. Here are three things our clients have found helpful.
Appreciate the Season
As with any creative art, there are rhythms to your leadership and self expression. Far from indicating error, wintery times are vital. The previous cycle of growth and harvest has given way to something altogether more still. Darker even, but in the way a womb or cave is dark.
One of the most empowering gifts we can offer another person is to make it okay for them to rest. Have some womb time or cave time. Almost always, these lulls turn out to be the seed of innovation. Let these quiet times access your genius, show you a simpler or more potent way forward, and nourish your whole being ahead of the next conquest of the impossible which will surely come. Often the deeper the winter, the richer the harvest.
Participate in the Transition
Almost always when people report a loss of motivation, something important is changing. Usually an external and an internal change. Strangely, flat times typically follow success, when something that we had long desired is now actually happening. If we look backwards, we miss the point and wonder: “Was my previous focus just a hollow vision?” Or whatever is your favorite way of knocking what got you here. Looking forward, however, we see what wants to evolve. And we can celebrate it. Yes, what got you here is not what will take you to the next step. How wonderful is that!
Listening to how leaders evolve has taught me to respect how a person’s drive deepens over time. This is usually maturing out of some kind of obligation or contest, like the motivation to prove a doubting parent or colleague wrong, or to achieve a measurably better score than others. Shedding layers of duty and comparison in favor of the natural impulse of our own self emergence involves a period of lull.
If that is happening for you, we encourage you to take one full day where you don’t have to do anything, where you let go completely. Feel the rising of the natural impulse that is still there when you owe nothing to no one, still there whether you feel flat or elated.
Investigate How Your World Is Changing
My experience of this deeper natural impulse is that it is more “pulled” than “pushed”. For most people, the prior motivation had the sense of pushing yourself. Deeper motivation is more likely to have the sense of being pulled into a vision of the future.
When you lose motivation, however, when an old vision has lost its luster, it can be hard to come up with a new vision without it feeling fake or forced. You want to allow time for emergent ideas to ferment. We don’t recommend trying to come up with the next new thing for your team too quickly. Rather, we encourage people to envision the world as it will be in, say, five years. Study what is changing in your field or industry, review the theses of others you respect and articulate your own thesis of the future. This kind of curious inquiry is readily mustered for most of us even when we feel flat emotionally. Once you start to see your future world, then it doesn’t take long to see how you could make a real difference, and that pulls you forward. Your natural impulse will want to impact that future. You won’t be able to help yourself.
We would love to hear your experiences of when you have lost motivation or supported someone through such a phase.