The work world knows all about competence. Most evaluations and rewards are determined by a person’s competence. Vocational guidance emphasizes it in testing which areas of work one would be most competent in. Transfers and promotions are based upon competence. In business and the professions, you get in and get ahead by demonstrating your competence. But somewhere along the way—as early as thirty-five for some people, but as late as fifty-five for others—competence begins to lose its force as a source of motivation.
The doctor says, “Yes, I’m a good surgeon, but the technical challenges just don’t interest me the way they used to. What’s the point of doing the same things over and over again?” And the plumber and the social worker and the housekeeper say the same thing. Of course, the old flame can be rekindled temporarily by shifting to an area where you must begin all over again and develop new competence, but the effects of such a change are usually short-lived. The season of competence is passing, in spite of some late-flowering transplants.
– Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes by William Bridges