Shifting Into a Different Gear

David Nour
David Nour

In the New Year, I make it a point to reach out to past clients and friends to touch base and get caught up on both sides. It’s a great chance to learn of their new adventures, strategic priorities, what they’re seeing and hearing in the market, and what they are working on Big!

Interestingly, the last several conversations have focused on shifting into a lower gear with the desire to scale back their professional ambitions, at least for now. The success formula we’ve all been taught over the years is to accelerate – work long hours, land more clients, bigger investors, improve your leadership brand, and rise on the corporate ladder to an increasingly greater realm of responsibilities.

With the stress of the global pandemic over the past three years and the adjustments we’ve all made in our work and life, it’s no surprise that many professionals are rethinking the next chapter of their lives. The recent Gallup State of the Global Workplace report showed that stress among workers has reached an all-time high, and only a third of workers are “thriving in their well-being.” 

It’s no surprise that shifting to a lower gear professionally may be the answer for many. But the desire to downshift is often accompanied by feelings of ambivalence, perceptions of lower self-worth, or even shame. We’re all used to thinking of ourselves, our roles, and our impact in all that we do as top-gear, high-achieving professionals, and for so many of us, what we do defines who we are! When that identity is brought into question and conflicts with our desires and actions, something has to give.

Shifting into a lower gear does not mean you’re less ambitious, are throwing away all that you’ve worked for, have become a slacker, or are somehow worth less! It simply means that you’re becoming more measured, recognizing different definitions of success, and embracing work-life blending.

I took a group of Emory grad school friends fly fishing last weekend to the stunning north Georgia mountains in advance of our upcoming Learning Expedition on April 3-6, and it was incredibly refreshing to see several friends of the past two decades shift into a lower gear and soak in a new chapter.

How are you thinking differently about the next chapter of your life?

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