There’s a moment in our lives when we face the biggest invitation to just coast, go through the motions, call it in, and give less than our best. A moment when we wake up without direction and no real excitement to find it. When is that? Surprisingly it’s not after disappointment. The most volatile time for our motivation and determination is after success. After the goal is achieved, the finish line is crossed, the fear has been conquered … then we celebrate? No, then we struggle.
It seems no one prepares you for what comes after success. When you should be feeling so overwhelmingly full of happiness, you’re instead met with an emptiness of ‘well, now what’?
You worked for YEARS for that degree … and now what? Oh yeah, you have to actually find a job. That’s a bummer.
You trained for 6 months for that race, race day came and went … and now what? Why go out there and run, you’ve already crossed your finish line.
You work your butt off, like literally, to reach your goal weight and zip up them jeans … and now what? Now you still don’t get to eat pizza? Still now ooewey gooey brownies? Oh come on man!
I’m just assuming, but I bet the percentage of newlywed couples who fight on their honeymoon is overwhelming. Why? Because the big celebration has come and gone, the day is done, and now what? Now I wake up to your bad breath. Now I’m left with forever with a flawed human being who leaves clothes on the floor, doesn’t close the bathroom door, and oh my gosh … he snores.
Let’s talk about AFTER success.
No one prepares you for this stuff. The emptiness of not knowing what to do next. The aching for the days of knowing what you were working for with clear direction. Here you are with the degree, the ring, the promotion, the medal, the house, the baby … you have what you wanted and you feel so dang guilty for it not being enough. Shouldn’t you be on cloud 9, energized by the experience, and 100% confident of your next move? But instead you feel a little empty, a little lost, and disappointed, regardless of how amazing it was.
I’m here to tell you that’s completely NORMAL.
It’s also normal to go into a dark hole of sadness after success. Yeah, no one tells you about that now do they?
It’s normal, but it’s also optional. It’s normal, but it’s not mandatory. It may happen a lot, and it may have happened to you in the past … but it doesn’t have to happen to you now.
I believe this shocking feeling of emptiness after success is nothing more than PROOF. Proof you were created for more. You are capable of more. You are worthy of more. There’s still more for you and more in you. This isn’t where you’re supposed to set up your camp and stay forever. This success, this breakthrough, this next level accomplishment was awesome … yes, celebrate the heck out of it … but it’s just the next step on your climb up to the life you were really created for.
I have a dear friend named Cassie. She’s one of those people everyone loves. She’s a magnet, an energizer, a ball of pure joy. For years she hid a struggle with infertility behind her bigger than life smile and laugh. But I knew. I knew her struggle. I knew her emptiness. Countless ups and downs and hundreds of negative pregnancy tests through the years. Then it finally happened … she was pregnant. It was the longest pregnancy ever … I believe this woman was pregnant for like 17 months, or so it seemed as we awaited the birth of this longed for, prayed for child. And then it happened … baby Sarah was born. Cassie was now a mom. And life went on. Cassie went back to work on a few hours of sleep, exhausted and slightly overwhelmed.
That’s reality. That’s what success looks like and no one prepares you for the AFTER success. On Saturday Cassie sat in the TEDTalk audience, pumping breast milk. I know. I saw it. I even took a photo of it!
The other side of success isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, it’s dang hard.
It’s paved with feelings of guilt and shame for still not feeling the happiness you imagined you would. It’s dark with uncertainty of what to do next, and a lack of motivation to do much of anything. This land of success has a strong pull backwards into struggle, into settling, and into assuming the best has come and gone and now there’s nothing more to look forward to.
And we are wrong. So wrong. There is so much to look forward to. There is so much more available to us. The longing you feel on the other side of success is a pull to more. You’re NOT done yet.
You’ve been given a baby … now rock motherhood, you mother!
You’ve earned that degree … now go land that job you’ve dreamed of.
You’ve landed that job you’ve dreamed of and it ends up you don’t really love it as much as you imagined … now dare to make a change.
You married that man … now come up with new reasons and ways to love him every single day.
You slayed that goal … now believe you’re capable of even more if you want it.
1 Corinthians 2:9 says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” Honey, you can’t imagine all the ‘MORE’ God has for you. The success you’ve experienced, the breakthroughs and the blessings … oh they’re great. You should spend the rest of your days praising God for what he has done for you. But while you’re praising, don’t you quit seeking, because there is so so so much more. What you’ve experienced so far is just the beginning. You can’t imagine what God has planned for you, but you can do this:
1. You can trust him. Trust that he’s not done with you yet. Trust that there’s more available to you. Trust that this is leading somewhere even better.
2. You can show up for it. I’m assuming you didn’t get to where you are today with that degree, with that career, with that house, with that health by doing absolutely NOTHING. Well you won’t get to the next level by doing nothing either. Now’s not the time to coast. If you turn off the engine, you will drift. Drifting never takes you anywhere good. You end up shipwrecked on a shore you didn’t choose. The post success drift is dangerous … don’t let that be you. Show up and drive you boat!
3. Be happy now. Yes, give yourself permission to look at that husband, that baby, that desk, that medal, that itty bitty muscle, that clean house and say … HECK YEAH, I DID THAT. God strengthened me. He made a way when there was no way. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it, and I’m going to be still right here for just a moment and enjoy this. Contentment is a balance of happiness in the moment, while knowing the best is yet to come.
I desperately miss my kids being little. Like there is an ache down in my bones I wasn’t quite prepared for now that all 3 are grown and gone. But I can find contentment right here in my empty nest because this is what success looks like. You don’t raise kids with the goal of them forever staying in your home. They’re supposed to grow up and leave and live their lives and learn through their own mistakes and failures as life touches and teaches them. This is success, it just doesn’t feel as warm and fuzzy as we imagined success would feel sometimes does it? But you know what I have to look forward to one day … grandchildren. And I hear that’s a whole other level of happiness. I can look forward to that!
Celebrate where you are today. If you have a success, girl be proud of it and send up a million praises to the one who made it all possible. Then know, there’s still more for you. This isn’t it. This is the beginning.
I love the story of the woman buried with a fork. A young woman with terminal cancer met with her pastor and made a special request for her funeral. She want to be buried with a fork. She explained that her grandmother always told of going to church dinners where everyone brought a dish to share. Delicious homemade food was in abundance. But her favorite part was after the main dish course was served and the dishes were being cleared, just when you thought it was all over, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ The grandmother said it was her favorite part because she knew something even better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. So keep your fork, the best is yet to come.”
So, this young woman said, bury me with a fork as a reminder, the best is yet to come.
This is where we are today. It’s been good. We’ve enjoyed some success. But honey, the best is yet to come. Keep trusting. Keep showing up. And don’t forget to be happy now.