When the tumultuous trek fades into a calm stroll, it’s initially hard to believe.
Immersed in the daily toil of building towards our goal or dream, we’re taken aback that we’re suddenly there. We’ve lost count of all the steps in the process—but at some point, the effort from the previous phases Reassess, Erase, Explore and Build all come together to the most desired phase for many: Optimize.
Optimize is about receiving the rewards of expertise.
This is the time to acknowledge our work, enjoy and continue to optimize for meaningful progress. Optimize is the phase where you receive the greatest rewards of what you’ve been working for, and usually includes public recognition, more stability, and future opportunities. You’re more settled, seasoned, and confident. You’ve battled the odds to become an expert. The heavy groundwork is done and it’s smooth sailing from here. Things are taking off with momentum and effortlessness. You can now relax while making small improvements. You’re living the dream right now.
Appreciate how far you’ve come
For some of us, it’s hard to recognize that we’re there. Having endured the trials of the Build phase, we’re in a bit of disbelief of how far we’ve come. We may feel somewhat paranoid, as if everything we’ve built will disappear in the next moment.
It’s important to acknowledge and appreciate what you’ve worked so hard for. Savor this phase as a time of celebration, recognition and enjoyment.
Some of us never give ourselves the chance to feel good about their progress. As soon as we’ve reached a goal, it’s on to the next. No matter how much we do, it’s never good enough. We tell ourselves this won’t last (which is true because everything passes in time), and so we shield ourselves from ever feeling disappointed by never feeling good to begin with. Not only is this tiring, it’s not sustainable. The exhaustion and lack of self-care will eventually catch up to you.
Allow yourself feel joy and pride for your hard work. Embrace and show gratitude for the rewards and opportunities. Even though it’s a bit vulnerable, it’s worthwhile and necessary for your long-term success.
Continue learning and improving
With your building experience, the Optimize phase is an excellent time to continue improving your craft to truly become a master. The learning curve isn’t as steep anymore but there are still efficiencies to be made, new strategies to try out, areas to dig a little deeper in expertise.
It can be fun to explore the in-depth opportunities. Perhaps you’re finally able to work on the dream scenario you’ve envisioned but wasn’t sure if it’d ever happen. Or you lose yourself in flow working on extensions of your goal you didn’t think were possible before. By continuing to learn and challenge yourself, you’ll make big strides forward in a time where you’ll see the most significant impact.
Focus on the big drivers
For us over-achievers, it can be tempting to go overboard on the improving quest. Some of us are tempted to continue building at full speed, doing everything and anything to get bigger and better. Instead of helping the momentum, this will eventually work against you. You will end up overextending yourself with things that really make little to no difference.
Instead of trying to do everything, see if there are any opportunities to streamline the workload while getting the same, if not greater, results. Don’t take all of the opportunities. You won’t be able to do them all, and you also don’t need to do as much to continue progressing. By scaling back, outsourcing, and getting rid of activities that don’t have a high-value return, you’ll get the biggest return for your effort. Rather than being stressed and burdened with the little things, you’ll have a clearer mind and energy to work on what truly matters.
Help others on their path
We all know the pain of being a beginner in the Explore and Build phases. It’s a difficult and daunting time. So instead of scoffing at the newcomers we come across, remember how hard it was to get to where you are. It’s good to remain humble and pay it forward when you’re in a position of plenty.
In the Optimize phase, you may be asked for advice, for help or to speak in front an audience. Giving back by helping others on their path will bring a smile and burst of energy to everyone involved. It’s a way to build new relationships and to do your part in encouraging more people to take big leaps in life.
While helping others, keep in mind that what worked for you may not work for them. It’s important to supportive without being overbearing, and to give others space to find their own path.
Relax and enjoy a bit
Some of us need reminders to take a break, even in the Optimize phase when there’s less of a hustle. Perhaps it’s been a while since you took a vacation. Maybe you’ve spent less time with family and friends in the busyness of the Build phase.
If so, take a few days off to go on a short trip or staycation. Plan some dedicated time with your loved ones. Make time for exercise and taking care of your health. If you let some priorities slide earlier in the Build phase, now is the time to reconnect and rebalance.
Take advantage of the greater flexibility and freedom in this phase to add some variety into your life. Try something new and fun that you’ve wanted to try but didn’t have the time before. Perhaps you’ll unknowingly get a head start on the next cycle that we all know will be coming.
Accept that this too will pass
The stability and perks of the Optimize phase come with a catch. It’s easy to become too comfortable.
And it’s completely understandable. This stage has the least amount of uncertainty, fear and doubt—all things we dislike—along with the greatest amount social proof, certainty and rewards—all things we crave. Unfortunately many people stay here until there is simply nothing more to optimize in a meaningful sense and they reach a stagnancy point.
Accept the temporary nature of everything in life—both the good and the bad. Life is a continuous process of REEBO. At some point in the future, it’ll be time to move on to the Reassess stage again. And while the transition will involve some uncertainty and discomfort, it will be always be a worthwhile and expanding experience for you. Enjoy optimizing while it lasts, but keep your eye on the horizon and what might be next on your lifelong journey of meaningful progress and becoming the ever-evolving best version of yourself.