Real Joy, Right Now
Step Four: Relax with Reality
I came to understand this recently as I watched my friend Joel (not his real name) navigate his way through a major life crisis. Joel's journey is paradigmatic—it shows in high relief the steps that can take you to steady contentment.
When his troubles started, Joel had what appeared to be a highly successful professional life. A recognized authority on large-scale organizational change, he received handsome fees for giving speeches to business groups around the world.
In 1999, Joel got an idea for an e-business. His plan was to get it up and running, make it successful, cash out, and use the money to finance what he really wanted to do. A year later, just as the Internet bubble was bursting, he came down with a severe case of pneumonia. In the nine months that it took Joel to recover his health, his business venture went belly-up and the stock market tanked, wiping out most of his investments. His wife wasn't working. They had a mortgage and private school tuition to pay, but their savings had been decimated, and between the two of them, they had almost no income.
That part wasn't so bad, he says. It was spring, and he spent a lot of time out on the lawn, watching the birds and ruminating, something he hadn't had time to do in years. His friends told one another that Joel's illness was turning out to be a blessing in disguise, a much-needed opportunity for him to get some rest.
Life got harder, though, when he began looking for work. His lecture gigs had dried up, and when he looked for corporate jobs, no one would hire him. For Joel—as for so many former surfers of the 1990s economy—the first years of the 21st century offered an unremitting series of blows to the ego. "We were broke," he recalls. "I was completely failing in my obligation to support my family, and the financial insecurity was really scary for my wife. All the external moorings—the things you count on, like praise and satisfaction in work—were dropping out of my life."!--page-->