A friend of mine recently went for the "Big Promotion" at work. It was all he could think about and talk about for weeks.
As is often the case, the process got delayed and weeks turned into months. But he was still excited about the possible new position and used the extra time to spin out even grander, more detailed plans of what he could accomplish if just given the chance.
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Well, he wasn't. The job went to somebody else.
As he describes it, my friend managed to validate the Elizabeth Kubler Ross "stages of grief" model in a rather impressive way. He did the shock/anger/bargaining/depression/acceptance routine at least a half-dozen times in the first 48 hours after he heard the bad news.
Then a strange thing happened. He decided it wasn't such bad news after all. In fact, he thinks he has discovered a sixth stage of grief that he has wound up calling "relief."
Talking to his wife, my friend saw that he had been totally absorbed -- make that obsessed -- with his new job even before he got (or in this case, didn't get) it. She'd noticed it, their kids had noticed it, friends had noticed (and actually I guess I'd even noticed it). And as they talked he realized that in the midst of grieving this lost opportunity, he also felt more than a bit relieved.
It wasn't that he wasn't still excited by the job, or that he doubted that he could do it. It was just that he had started to wonder if he wanted to pay the price that the job demanded.
That may sound odd, but the fact was that though the new position would pay significantly more, it would also cost significantly more. It looked like one of those twelve-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week jobs that his company was famous for.
Those sort of days and weeks don't allow much time for family, children or friends, let alone any rest and relaxation just for himself. And when he thought about it, the person who had retired from the job he'd tried for had once confessed that it had almost killed him and destroyed his marriage.
I ran into my buddy last week. He's doing fine. And so are his wife, his kids and his friends. He's taken a new look at his old job and found there is a lot more he can do with it than he had thought. He's even thinking of writing a novel about life in corporate America. Go figure.
When opportunity knocks, maybe we shouldn't always answer.