pressure to be perfectEver get that empty feeling when you’ve worked intensely on something big and then it ends?

During the first quarter of this year I worked on three major projects that had me zigzagging the country through the dead of winter to New York, LA, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Tampa and Atlanta.  The pace was non-stop and the stakes were high.  I worked closely with my clients every day to ensure that what I was delivering was on target. We collaborated on strategy, told each other about our personal lives, made each other laugh, got as close as family.  And then it was over.

On one hand, I was now free to spend time with my daughter, reconnect with friends, hike the trails right outside my door, go see my doctors, get my house in order, plan vacations and work on my garden.  On the other hand, I was missing my clients, the adrenalin rush of doing important work, and the jet setting lifestyle that comes with being an author, professional speaker and sales trainer. Instead of enjoying the much-needed time off from deadlines and demands, I felt anxiety and at times, grief.

I’ve owned my business for over two decades. These ups and downs, ebbs and flows have been a part of the business cycle ever since I can remember. Yet this time, when the heavy lifting ended, I didn’t feel light, I felt burdened by fear.  Rather than celebrating my wins, I got paranoid. I made up stories, and interpreted emails in the negative.  I had to keep telling myself, “I am not being abandoned.  The project has simply ended. The contracts are over. Period.”

When the workload lightens, instead of celebrating our wins, we can become paralyzed by fear.

I’ve talked to enough people to know that Post-Project Depression is real. Whether it’s the day after an event you’ve planned for months, seeing a book you’ve been working on for years finally published, or graduating school, the malaise can be the same.

Perhaps the only cure is to attract more project work. That means getting out there, marketing your brilliant solutions and moving forward in gratitude for all you have, rather than what you left behind.  That’s a solid strategy, but it could also be a distraction.

Sometimes what’s really needed is to hit the pause button to revaluate your purpose before propelling yourself forward.  It’s about getting very humble and asking your fan club– coaches, clients, friends and teachers– this question, “How do you see me and my work?  What would you do differently if you were standing in my shoes? Where would you go next in your career if you were me?”  Their answers should reignite your purpose.

The idea is to use the ebb as your edge and make the downtime your friend.  For me, I called in my coaches, my sister, my trusted assistant, and my marketing guru.  Through their counsel I moved gracefully out of my funk and back into faith.

At the end of a project, anticipate and embrace the inevitable finality and call in your fan club to reignite your purpose.