I would like to share a personal news with you that has been in the making (read: on my mind) for 20 years. As of this fall, I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Strathclyde Business School, in the Management Science Department. I will be traveling to the UK for classes, and eventually work on a dissertation related to the way analytical thinkers employ intuition and wayfinding. Yes, I am keeping the doors of my coaching practice open, and will continue teaching corporate workshops, time-permitting. (At least, this is the plan.)
Upon learning of this news, an old friend commented:
“I hate to say this, but whatever you think the Ph.D. will give you, it won’t; you will be disappointed. It won’t make you feel anything you don’t already feel, or give you what you don’t already have. It’s just three letters after your name.”
And then, … the punchline:
“Are you sure you are not just an experience junkie, going for [what you think is] a bigger thrill, or an escape from reality?”
Only an old friend (and only a friend with a Ph.D.) can afford to make a comment like this, and for it to have this much weight.
It made me think.
Do you allow a possibility that you may be an experience junkie when you eye that big promotion, a larger house, a faster car, one more new baby, or an exciting trip?
Do you ever ask yourself whether the experience will Really make you feel the way you want to feel?
How do you know whether the experience you desire is not just a distraction, an escape lasting just long enough for the motorcycle exhaust to dissipate, and leave you craving something new?
After some serious thought, here’s my take.
You may be having an experience junkie craving with a particular goal if:
- You want a check-mark without wanting a corresponding journey (for example, a Ph.D. without having to learn, a promotion without additional interesting responsibilities)
- You view the goal is the end game rather than the beginning (finding a soulmate is just the beginning of your journey together, not the end; getting a dream job is just the beginning of what you can create in your new role, etc.)
- You want an experience for which you can space out, experience you don’t have to integrate, and be around just long enough for the award ceremony, snapping a picture at an opportune moment (“Me, on top of [metaphorical] Everest”, dropping a forced smile right after the photo; “My view of sunset from the office”, wishing you weren’t at your office at that time, but the picture looks so good, etc.)
You may be gearing up for a truly meaningful experience with your goal if:
- You desire the journey on which this goal is taking you.
- You want to be fully present for all of it, the fun and the difficult parts, without spacing out.
- You will allow the experience to land on you, to affect you, to stay with you, changing you in the process
- There is intimacy between you and the goal, where, even if no one is watching you, you still want to level with it, to materialize it, to see yourself as someone who has reached for it. It is yours, whether or not you get to tell anyone about it.
To convert an “experience junkie goal” into a “meaningful goal”, ask yourself:
- What journey do I want to be on? (vs. a point in time)
- What experience am I willing to be fully present for?
- What experience do I allow to transform me?
- How do I value and measure myself when no one is watching?
So, to answer my friend, this Ph.D. has a great deal of meaning for me because it is pointing me toward the journey I want to experience. I want to learn from and be mentored by an outstanding thinker, I want more opportunities to learn and present again at influential forums like this, and I want to translate everything I’m learning into practical tools for my clients.
If the topic of being an experience junkie is on your mind, let’s experiment: put your goal through the filters above, and let me know how it goes. We can think through it together.