On this page: Why Get Up in the Morning? Asks Executive
Dear Midas Jones – I am a 55 year old man, a corporate executive, a father, a husband, and prosperous. I have spent 30 years climbing through the ranks of several corporations, have had my own accounting practice, and am now in a very high profile position in a very large accounting firm. I have all of the stuff I could ever want and only buy something when something else wears out. My second and current wife is young, pretty, sexy, and smart. Of my three children, one is in law school, one is married to a physician and has two beautiful children, and the third is floundering but I figure two out of three aren’t bad stats for a father. Anyway, I figure she is her mother’s problem (sorry, that’s the kind of father I am).
I have solved many problems in my career and in my personal life, but here is one I never thought I’d have to deal with: I don’t want to get up in the morning because I have nothing to look forward to. I am bored with the things that I have to do during the day each day. It’s not that the work is not challenging; it is. It is tough, highly detailed, and complicated. I have about 500 people whose work I supervise, including accountants, auditors, computer programmers, clerical people, and a platoon of gofers and getters. My division is very successful and my bonuses each year are big ones. I can live comfortably for the rest of my life if I never earn another cent. I am tired of reading reports, attending meetings, planning new programs, coordinating, and schmoozing. I look at the job above mine – which would be my next logical promotion – and I imagine it would be about as boring as the one I have now. I am tired of golfing with prospective customers and listening to their very boring stories about their very boring lives. They remind me of me! I want to get up in the morning and look forward to my day. – Help Me
Dear Help – Your problems (note the plural) exist at several levels.
Biochemistry is surely part of the problem. It is part of every human problem. Your feelings of lethargy and listlessness (all human emotions are nothing more than the experience of your body’s biochemistry) may well mean that your body is not producing the levels of hormones that would make you feel more alive and more excited about life. See a physician and a psychiatrist to see if there is a pill that would help. Also, consider the many ways you can control your own biochemistry. Eat and drink only what is good for you. Exercise vigorously every day. Incorporate new experiences into your life: new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and habits. New stimuli from your environment will stimulate your body. If you have a pretty, sexy, young wife you may not benefit much from an extra-marital relationship, but you might think about it. Sex definitely changes your biochemistry.
At the existential level, only you can decide what is meaningful for you. Your letter made it pretty clear that helping your corporation to increase earnings this year is not doing it for you. Neither is clawing your way up to yet another promotion. So, why are you staying? You are not a priest and your corporation is not the Holy Church. You are not staying for the money, the work, or the prestige, so it must be because you can’t imagine an identity for yourself outside of the corporate world. Take the deathbed test. Imagine you have been told by your physician that you have only a couple of weeks to live. Imagine yourself laying on your deathbed in a morphine haze. What will your dying future self think of your accomplishments up through today? How would you like for the last few chapters of your biography to read? Consider, “After becoming vice-president of the corporation, he then went on to read lots more reports, chair lots more meetings, and make lots more money, which he left to his young, sexy widow. He died after a very long time of doing this.”
You are lucky in that you have the resources to change your life in any way you want to. The first thing you have to do is to regain enthusiasm for your life -- meaning the things that you do every day (that is what your life is, right?). Who decides what makes life meaningful? Only the person who is living it. How can you decide what is meaningful for you? Use the deathbed test: will this action seem like an appropriate use of the precious hours of your life when your life is near its end and hours are few?
Think about it, and good Luck -- Midas