Moving Back to Center

August 29th, 2016 by Kelly Kienzle

Sometimes after we’ve been in a role for a while, we are no longer happy. We go through our work almost blindly and do not need to exert much intellectual energy to fulfill our responsibilities satisfactorily. Sometimes we can even be performing above average, but doing it on auto-pilot because we have so much experience and historical knowledge.

The worst part is that we often don’t notice that this subtle shift to auto-pilot has occurred.


This slow-motion metamorphosis has happened to me a few times in my career. In each instance, the shift began innocently enough. I, like many of us, wanted to understand my colleagues’ or clients’ needs and meet them as best I could. I wanted to offer and be what they most needed at that time. We each inherently want to support other people because most of us have realized that our success is dependent on the success of others.

Yet at some point, we have given in and acquiesced too much. We start to think only of others and become lost in the mission and goals of others. No alarm bell sounds (at the time) because we are acting seemingly so selflessly and altruistically.

And because the shift happens incrementally, we don’t notice any particular change in our happiness level either. Our happiness is degrading only by very small percentages each time. It is like sand moving down the hourglass and only when our energy reserves are completely empty do we realize that we have been unhappy for a while.

At this point, we can see that the reason we are unhappy is that we are no longer working towards fulfilling our own goals. We have forgotten or pushed aside what we personally wanted to do and filled in our time, brain-space and calendars with the needs of others. We have become the person our organization needs us to be, instead of who we want to be. And this can never fulfill us completely.

This is the great paradox of leadership: We must stay aligned with our vision yet also support the other members of our team.

So how do we resolve these seemingly conflicting needs to be in service to others while also remaining loyal to our original goals?

Slowing Down

Like corporate mergers and New Year’s resolutions, the answer is to move slowly. Moving slowly provides us with time to consider whether we are serving both our personal goals as well as the goals of the team. If we take just a moment then we will, at a minimum, be mindful of and considerate of our goals before each decision.

And this “moment” does not have to be a lengthy process. No need to sign up for the 2-week retreat in Arizona for sleepy meditation sessions and bland quinoa salads.   The time can be as simple as taking an extra 30 seconds (yes, that’s what “slowly” can mean here in 2016) to consider 2 questions before each decision of whether you attend the meeting, join the project or reply to the important email:

  1. How will my involvement benefit others?
  2. How will my involvement serve my own needs and interests?

In this way, we can achieve balance between contributing to the success of others while also remaining committed to our goals and vision for ourselves. We can move back to center. And we can be happy again that we are living the life we intended to live – – right in the center of those two needs.

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