Dealing with the Career Treadmill

The treadmill of life or of your career can be a stern taskmaster.  If you ever use a treadmill I will compare and contrast how your can adjust the workout device with the device that can either “whip you into shape” or make you feel miserable.

Shawn Sommerkamp wrote a wonderful piece about how Hedonic Adaptation can keep us from feeling too bad or too good when things are at one end of the spectrum versus another.  This image stuck in my mind when I read Shawn’s segment about this phenomenon.

When I first saw this photo I thought to myself “what is it I am chasing” when I get on the career treadmill.  Is it money, is it notoriety, or am I motivated in some other way?

Each one of us can answer this in a different way, and I would also say that it may not be the same thing every day, week, month or year in our lives.

My intent today is to help you manage your own treadmill, both in speed and in elevation, so that you have a better balance in your own life and career.  If we always run fast, we will soon tire and lack the energy to continue.  If we turn the elevation too high, we still tire and drop back quickly.

I seek to pursue career goals in more of an interval approach.  I may run hard for a while, but will then take a moment to slow down, reflect and then get back on the treadmill for another stint.  This type of training was mentioned prominently in The Power of Full Engagement, a book I first read over 10 years ago.  This book espouses the interval method for both the “corporate athlete” as well as for the traditional athlete.  The examples in the book make great sense to me and I would highly recommend you too take a look at this system as a way to manage the ups and downs in your own career.

For those who use the treadmill for exercise, you realize that there is little benefit if you keep the speed too low.  You may find this enjoyable, but the cardio benefit would be minimized and the benefit to your overall fitness would be less than if you use an approach where you tax yourself in cycles so that you can build resiliency and strength.

So too for your career.  If you never push yourself, you’ll never learn what your limits might be.  On the flip side, if you are always running hard you run the risk of injury or worse on the workout treadmill.  The same holds in your personal life.  If you run too hard in your career you might experience health risks or even worse, you may damage the relationships that really matter in your work and in your own family.  A treadmill is not a great tool for building team strength and only working on your own capacity has limited long-term benefits for any team you may be part of.

Finally, you need to understand what you are chasing on your career treadmill.  I really enjoyed the scriptural references in the post mentioned earlier about hedonic adaptation.  If you always chase money, you will eventually find that there is never enough to satisfy the appetite you have developed.  The same goes for fame and recognition.

I would encourage you to chase goals that benefit not only yourself, but that will also benefit those you care for and love the most.  This may involve stepping off the treadmill occasionally to attend to these individuals.

I would also encourage you to pursue issues that transcend this life.  There will come a time when your career will end and you will need to be prepared for that time.

We all need to spend time on the career treadmill.  How we use that time is our own choice.

What we pursue while on the treadmill will have a marked impact on who we become.