She made it! Why's she unhappy?

Many people have a successful career but are not happy. Others, are happy with their life in general but are disappointed by other parts of their life. John M McKee explains why this happens.

The call came from a woman with a big job at an electronic gaming company:

"I've read your book 21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot. It was real helpful and showed me how to deal with issues that had been holding me back. I was promoted. But I still can't get over the feeling that I should feel better about life overall. I mean -- I got the big office, I make good money, and I have a team of over 50 people. By anyone's standards, I'm a success.

So, Coach, tell me: Why do I feel unhappy?"

I already knew the answer, based on the background she provided:

A senior player, she's well up the ladder in a company that's dominated by guys who love playing sports games online or talking about their home players.

She'd worked hard and finally got the title. With that came the "power," a generous salary with bonus, and the other benefits common in the gaming industry. By almost any measure, she was successful.

But here's the thing: Success doesn't equal satisfication.

That's because every human being, each of us, is made up of three separate and critical life elements. Each element exerts push and pull on our life. Every day. And, if we don't pay attention to each of these three, we can't achieve overall satisfaction.

You know what I mean. Think about for a minute people like the once-famous young movie star who has so many drug problems he can't get hired. Or perhaps you remember a guy you knew in college who married the love of his life but since then did so badly in the career front he's always broke and cranky. Each of these people "succeeded" in one life element but ended up unhappy and dissatisfied.

The three life elements are:

1. The personal/family part of you. This is the aspect that gets charged by doing things or being with those we care about at a deep level. 2. The professional side. Whatever the career choice, this is that part of you that gets up each day and goes out to make a living. Ideally you do something that resonates with you, that you enjoy, and that you learn from. 3. The financial element. Many people make a lot of money but have nothing in the bank; others make a modest living but have deep savings. They can deal successfully with anything that is thrown at them.

My new client in the gaming sector has succeeded on the second life element, the professional one. She has a good career and enjoys it. She is truly successful in that regard. But she's not satisfied.

With a little time together, I learned that she doesn't have any really close friends, and she longs for a relationship with a guy who cares about her as much as she would him. While she has a little money in the bank, she admitted that she spends far too much on entertainment and other things to give her a temporary lift. "I feel like I deserve it. I work hard," she noted.

She is, in the over-used phrase, out of balance. Successful in one key element, but not doing well on the other two. Her action steps were clear -- she needed to start focusing some time and attention on her personal life and her financial management. Until then, she's not going to be satisfied, and she'll be unhappy.

We are now developing a plan to get her life in order. We are working on a program to achieve that goal. Interestingly, she is actually "happier" now that she knows what the issue is and has started working on the fix.

I am optimistic that she will achieve successes with her personal and financial elements. After all, this isn't like learning a new language. It's fairly straightforward.

And I've seen it happen, quickly, many times over my 30 years in business and coaching.


Leadership Coach