THE BLOG
01/26/2012 07:09 pm ET | Updated Mar 27, 2012

When Success Leaves You Feeling Empty

You've been waiting for this day for so long -- a big promotion, award, or accomplishment! You thought you'd feel on top of the world, but for some reason, you don't. Not only are you not in any celebratory mood after you've realized this achievement, but you notice that you are sliding into an unexpected mini-depression. What gives?

In one sense, having gone after that specific "next big thing" is much like training for a marathon and then competing. Once you cross the finish line, you experience a short-lived ecstasy, but then you crash. If you have ever watched runners, you know their expended energy results in a temporary agony, horrifying to witness.

Reaching a new level of success isn't so different. You have spent so much time and effort and strategy to get recognized. It's been a goal driving you, a good thing-- and then it's realized. As it sinks in, you start to wonder, "Do I deserve it? So far, so good, but can I actually do it? Am I going to be found out to be a fraud? Do I even really want it?"

I have a Ph.D. in how we manage change in our careers but I still can't find any short cuts to our nervous system. Studying the way that most people handle change, I've found that we typically want something more or something other. At the same time, we also want to know the territory, feel comfortable in basic ways and not have to learn everything all at once. Meeting change is so overwhelming that most people (especially women) don't even try. Those who do still have to internally process the chaos, turbulence, and the unknown. That's a lot harder to do than imagined. When it's done well, it looks seamless, deceptively easy - just like any art.

To give yourself the needed boost, look back at what you've achieved in the past (by reading your resume, for example) to remind yourself of your own accomplishments. You'll be surprised at your worth. Keep a file or log of your successes including projects and praise as you go along so that next time you don't forget how good you are and how courageous your actions have been. This will also help jog your memory when you will need it... for yourself, for your boss, and for future endeavors. You should celebrate reaching this goal with a gift to yourself -- tangible, like the bracelets I buy myself each time I write a new book, to remind you of your recognized efforts whenever you see it.

Sooner or later, you will learn all about performing the duties of this new position and some of you who are ambitious will find that, again, you are ready for something more challenging and will fix your sites on a new goal. Instead, do your best to focus on learning and mastering what it takes to perform it well and use your skills to make a difference before you begin your search for the big NEXT.

Succeeding requires one set of skills. Managing success another set. Both are critical in your careering process.

Make your luck happen!