Author Michael Hyatt in Living Forward calls it “the Drift”. The Drift is when we begin floating through life, and over time, become unaware, distracted, and overwhelmed (by things we unknowingly let overwhelm us). The majority of our population does this and knows the feeling.
It starts early. Even if you are fortunate enough to attend college, we are rushed to decide on life-long careers with very little self-awareness. So we end up pursuing careers based on external pressures or that will provide financial stability. That’s a bad recipe. It’s why Europeans take Gap Years.
It’s also why I’m taking a Sabbatical (a.k.a. a Grown Up Gap Year) in the middle of my career with no job guarantee on my return. Because I was stuck in the Drift and being misaligned with your values will eventually eat you alive. It’s why people have mid-life crises. Lawyers are a great example. They are known to be highly compensated, but highly unhappy. Many are actually miserable (sorry Lawyers, this is proven). I know many Lawyers and Bankers who have lots of material possessions, but are completely unfulfilled.
One needs to look no further than the 5 Regrets of the Dying to affirm that money and possessions are not what matter in the long run. Being true to yourself, relationships, that’s what matters. This should sound alarms in our society and we need to start taking it seriously. It’s also a big reason I’m taking the risk to leave my comfortable and well-paying job to pursue a life that is aligned with my values. And to create the space to dig deep and take the long view. To grow my relationships that have atrophied while I lived in the Drift. Because I know it’s what matters in the end.
But many never make (or take) the time to STOP and ask the big questions. Ask what we truly value. I didn’t. It takes a while to dig deep and really think it through. So if you are feeling unfulfilled, try to take a pause. Even if only for a few hours. Or minutes. And think about what you value. It doesn’t mean you have to leave your job. We all have families, mortgages (hopefully one you can afford), obligations. But start taking action to find what will bring you true fulfillment and peace in the end. It’s not money or possessions. It’s the soft stuff. The intangibles. Don’t forget that.