“She saw 36!! And one was just lying across the trail!”
“What?!? How is this allowed?”
“I DON’T KNOW”
This was the conversation before my friend and I went to Everglades National Park. We couldn’t believe that there were going to be rogue alligators next to us on a bike trail. No confinement, no cages, no barriers between us and them- just us and wild alligators.
Now, I’ve seen the discovery channel and allowing this did not seem appropriate. But, everyday hundreds of people explore the Everglades and I figured if they could do it so could I.
So we start driving to the park and on the way we see our first alligator. I’m instantly excited. Afraid? No way, not anymore. I planned to photograph every alligator we saw.
The first two miles we were on the lookout for alligators with laser focus to make sure we didn’t miss a single one. Those first two miles of the fifteen were glorious. We passed seventeen alligators, some no more than a foot away from us.
But, gradually we stopped pointing and shouting every time we saw an alligator. Little by little I started to feel my legs getting tired. I started counting down the miles. And I realized that my winter acclimated body was not prepared for 84 degree sunshine. Before I knew it, I had stopped looking for alligators all together. And then I got mad at myself. How was I already becoming disengaged?? Why was I counting down the miles when I had looked forward to this for so long?
My career has been no different than seeing the alligators. First I was nervous and anxious. Then the fear of the unknown transformed into excitement. But slowly I started to lose interest and become disengaged. The truth is, everything loses its novelty. We call this The Novelty Dip. When the newness of something wears off, excitement can quickly turn to boredom. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are three things we can do to ensure we will maintain our engagement and as a result, our excitement.
1- Recognize the novelty will wear off
It is bound to happen. We will eventually become accustomed to all new things. Two miles into a trail ride, I was no longer excited about alligators and seeing them had already become the norm. When this happens, we need to accept it and move on. All experiences and things will lose the novelty, but they don’t need to lose their fulfillment. Instead, we need to move toward increasing depth and increasing width.
2- Increase Depth
Once I started getting bored with the alligators, I noticed signs every few hundred feet. Each sign had information about alligators and the Everglades. My interest increased immediately. I was now looking to see if I could tell the difference between the males vs females. I was looking closer to see their tails. Every sign I read gave me a new appreciation for the alligators. The same is true in our career, the more we learn, the more we keep our engagement alive.
3- Increase Width
Once you have a deeper understanding, it is time to learn more. A few more miles into the ride and I began to notice the different birds. I shifted my focus from the alligators toward the birds and found a renewed level of excitement. In our career, we want to expand our learning and fill in the gaps that exist. With more learning comes more fulfillment and more engagement.
There will always be alligators in our career. The important thing is to remember that the problem is not the alligator. Alligators don’t change, our level of engagement does. So, once your level of engagement drops off- accept it, deepen it and expand it.