How To Avoid Feeling Empty After The Elation Of Achievement
Mission accomplished! Elation! …Now what?
Recently I wrote about why you should celebrate reaching your milestones.
This past week I was again inspired by an event in my life, the pending culmination of our grammar school reunion.
A handful of my grammar school classmates and I have been organizing a reunion to be held this upcoming weekend. Fun stuff for sure!
We have been meeting for the past six months: finding venues, deciding on food, creating entertainment, stalking (I mean, inviting) classmates, communicating information, and generating excitement.
Our group has spent a lot of time putting our minds, hearts and talents together, and we cannot wait until the moment this reunion is manifest!
The other day one of the girls commented on how she has become so used to our group getting together, how much she enjoys planning and problem-solving with us, she is going to miss that once the reunion weekend is over.
And when someone posted on our Facebook group that they were counting the days until the reunion, I thought, “Yes, Time, please fast-forward to everyone being together, but then you need to slow down once we do get together and not go by as quickly.”
Because, then what?
It will be over and feel like the air just got sucked out of a balloon.
Is this not the way of so many things in our lives?
Full of excitement, wonder, motivation and joy you construct your days around conceiving and achieving a goal.
From weddings, weight loss and earning degrees to vacations, birthdays, and play-offs, you enthusiastically endeavor to attain your desired target.
You take purposeful baby-step after baby-step for a week or a month or a year, all in pursuit of “It”.
And then you succeed!
The elation in that moment is profound.
The emptiness in the next can be equally profound.
So how do you navigate this particular dance of life?
Relish the baby steps
Yup, the goal is your destination, just make sure you soak in all the good vibes derived from attaining the baby steps along the way.
What makes the baby steps so important?
Each time you accomplish a part of your plan or check off a box on your to-do list (how great is that feeling of putting a big, fat “X” next to an item on your list?!), your brain rewards you with a little shot of dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical which positively influences your feelings of motivation, bliss and euphoria.
Sent the invitations? Bam! Lost two pounds? Bam!
All those little shots of dopamine have you secretly (or not-so-secretly) shouting “Yesss!”; they bring you a sense of satisfaction and motivate you to keep going.
When you lose sight of the baby steps by focusing only on the end-goal, you miss out on the many pleasures presented along the way.
So again, yes, your big-picture joy may come with attaining your goal, but do not disregard the countless opportunities for joy along the way.
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Make a post-goal date
The moment comes and you find yourself standing there thinking, “What?! It’s all done? Just like that??”
You may literally feel all of the sense of urgency, motivation, anticipation, and excitement draining from your body and soul, more quickly than your battery is drained by Bluetooth.
How can you slow this feeling of emptiness and desolation?
Before your goal is totally complete, make a post-goal date with someone.
Set up a time with your planning group to reconvene within the next week or so, allowing you to relive attaining the goal, reflect on the highs (and lows) throughout the journey, and perhaps look ahead to other things coming.
Is your softball season over? Set up a time for an informal game or two.
Revel in your accomplishments and celebrate the many ways you have grown, connected with others, and impacted those around you.
Plus, it is good to revel in the emptiness you feel. That too is a sign of having accomplished something. You do not have to wallow in it, but allow yourself to feel it and appreciate it for what it is as one facet of your truth coming through.
Extending “the end” allows for a gentler transition once you have reached your goal, eases the abruptness that can be so jarring, and leaves you with one more shot of dopamine for a job well done.
“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” - Oprah Winfrey
Set another goal
Armed with the inspiration and confidence garnered from having just attained one goal, set your sights on another goal.
Nothing fires up the soul like welcoming a new aspiration into your life; new opportunities, challenges, hurdles and triumphs await you.
You take your previous experiences with you; bringing a smile to your face as you recollect them so they are really not forgotten at all, you see and expand upon them.
No matter how lofty or humble it may appear, a goal is a goal. Go for it.
Step back upon the eternal path towards goals and dreams.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C. S. Lewis
Emptiness is a real feeling, it is part of the dance, and you do not want to disregard it. It is as natural as the elation that precedes it.
Allow it to flow into and out of your life as gracefully as a butterfly.
And know that every “Now what?” is an opportunity for a new dance to begin.