After achieving success, it can be hard to take the next step.
It’s something we all crave.
And as elusive and challenging as it often seems, many of us achieve it.
We get our new business to generate a profit. We establish that new division or deliver a new project or program. We achieve a long-held target or surpass our main competitor.
Success takes many forms.
But it often delivers a surprising sting in the tail. After the initial joy of doing something you’ve long wanted subsides, you can be left with a hollow feeling. It’s partly “Is that all there is?” but mostly it’s “So now what do I do?” or “How do I take the next step forward?”
You feel stuck.
And there’s actually a not so surprising reason for you to feel that way.
Your feeling of success relates directly to the level of risk you took to begin with. To the level of stretch in your original goal. To the number of sacrifices and sleepless nights you had along the way.
You hired three staff when you only had income to support two. You leased an office big enough for eight staff when you only had three. You took out a loan that you could barely afford to service. You had 100 members or customers, but you were aiming for five times that many. And you worked incredibly long hours.
But ultimately, it all worked. Your goals were realised and you achieved success.
All your staff get paid. The office fills up. The loan payments become more manageable. Your member or customer base grows. And you probably still work long hours.
Everything settles into a kind of equilibrium. Everything you initially hoped for. Balanced. Self-sustaining. Comfortable.
And therein lies the problem.
These qualities you strived for all make further growth really difficult. It’s clear that to move forward, something has to change. But any change will disrupt your equilibrium. Upset your balance. Reduce your comfort level. And then you find you’re stuck.
So, how do you get un-stuck?
Like most solutions to complex problems the answer is not all that complicated, but it’s also not easy. It simply needs you to accept some realities and to take some determined strategic action.
You can use or adapt this process whether you’re stuck in a job that you’re no longer passionate about, stuck with a project or program that’s no longer inspiring its participants, or leading an organisation whose achievements have plateaued.
- Accept that change is necessary
You just cannot grow, or develop, or evolve without some things changing. Some of these things will be sacred to you. Some of the changes will be uncomfortable. But before you can do anything that will move you significantly forward, you must accept the inevitability of change.
To climb a new and bigger mountain, you have to first come down from the peak you’re already on.
- Accept that you are the problem
You (and any partners or team members who’ve taken the journey with you) will have invested a great deal in the success you’ve achieved. You will have a thousand reasons why things are done the way they are. You are therefore potentially the greatest impediment to achieving the change you need.
- Accept that you will need external help
Because you designed, created and drove the success you’ve achieved, seeing the forest for the trees can be a real problem. You’re embedded in what you’ve done and it’s a big part of you. So you’re simply too close and too invested to be able to see the next steps with clarity.
Find someone you trust and have them facilitate the steps below. But don’t, under any circumstances, let them tell you what should happen. Let them help with the process but keep ownership of the decisions and outcomes.
- Revisit your “why”
Once you’ve accepted the realities of your situation, much of what needs to happen can feel like starting again. And in a way it is, although from a much stronger launching point than you had originally.
For any new beginning, you must be absolutely committed to your fundamental reason for doing what you do – your “why.” From all you’ve done and learned in getting this far, you may now realise that it’s changed, either a little or possibly a lot. Unless you’re very clear and certain about your “why,” everything else you do will potentially lead you in the wrong direction.
- Rekindle your passion
Remember how you felt when you first started? Remember the excitement and passion you had about the idea of achieving your goals? You’d be unusual if the ups and downs of your journey to success hadn’t knocked the edges of that passion, at least a little. So, find a way to re-energise, and share that new energy with your team, so that they in turn can inspire you to feel more passion for your new direction.
- Redefine your definition of success
Yes, you’ll need to set new goals. And perhaps you should be smarter about the way you measure your performance along the way. But most importantly, reset your idea of success so that it’s much more about the journey than about some predetermined destination.
If I travel around the world, will I see my trip as successful just because I arrive safely home at the end? Well partly, but much more because of the sites, and experiences and wonderful surprises I had along the way.
- Refine your understanding of your ‘customer’
Ultimately, your business, program or job is there to serve others. Taking the next step requires you to focus more clearly on this purpose. Has the nature of your customer changed since you first started? Do you understand why they want what you provide? Are there some types of customer you no longer feel connected to?
Rationalise, trim and refine your customer base to give your next steps clarity and greater relevance.
- Review your people
Check in with your team. Are they all doing what they’re best at? Are they all doing what they love? If not, be prepared to make changes. Move some individuals into new roles. Train others to better deliver on their purpose. And if necessary, bring in some new blood to energise you all.
Finally, all this thinking will be wasted if you don’t actually do something! So make a start, however tentative. And make sure that all the great ideas you generate from the steps above are converted to actions. The best idea in the world won’t generate success if it isn’t acted on.