There are quite a few people out there who claim to know what will make us happy. I am always a bit suspect of accepting general answers to mostly subjective questions. One person’s happiness can be another person’s obligation or chore. My contention is that most people don’t spend enough time truly trying to get in touch with themselves as individuals and what honestly makes them happy. In fact, we often feel a bit sheepish or odd when we don’t follow a conventional formula for happiness. There is this overriding sense that it is better to fit in than be different – which is nonsense and direct pathway to personal malaise and/or unhappiness.
It seems like almost every day we read online or in print media about another famous person or business leader who commits self-sabotage. It’s almost as if they can’t help it. There is something about success which turns certain people against themselves. You would think getting to the top of the mountain in life would […]
Everyone should be mindful of their temptations. Temptation is an issue we all deal with. I don’t usually mix my faith which I deem to be a very personal issue with my leadership development work. And, I have no intention of radically changing course now, however what we read and study does affect us and […]
A mother is a very special person in a child’s life and if you are lucky, a lingering positive presence throughout your adult life. Much of what we first learn comes from our mom. She is often the calm in the midst of the many storms we encounter. She is there for you no matter what. I am blessed that my mom had so much to offer. The following lessons are just a small sampling of her overall impact on my life:
Life can be a roller coaster at times. There will be highs and there will be lows. The important thing is not to overreact or think that everything has to be perfect all the time. Perspective is important. There is no silver bullet. There is nothing you can buy or pill you can take that will make you happy for any extended period.
As we approach another Labor Day it’s actually depressing how many people dread going to work. I’ve ready many different statistics some saying as much as 90% of people are unhappy with their job. Since we spend a significant part of our adult life working, this means that most people will spend a good deal of time unhappy or uninspired in their career. I have a hard time getting my head wrapped around this issue. Why would either party to the relationship accept this reality? I guess that is why individuals change jobs so frequently these days. They are searching for something the data says they have little chance of ever finding.
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to be what you are not. There are a lot of books out there that tell you that you can be anything you want to be, but this simply is not true. No matter how hard I try, there are certain things I just can’t do or won’t be able to do well. It has saddened me to watch so many people regularly set themselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations about what is possible for them and others. Instead of trying to force yourself into a role/career/opportunity that isn’t right for you, why not embrace who you are and what makes you special and tap into that?
I have always been a fan of Dr. Gordon Livingston and his four books: Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart; And Don’t Forget to Dance; How To Love; and The Thing You Think You Cannot Do. I highly recommend all of them. I often refer to each of these books for inspiration and guidance. Today, I thought I would share some excerpts from his first book to help launch the week on a positive and thoughtful note:
I felt like doing something different with this blog. I am a huge fan of the literary works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and was recently revisiting and discussing his essay on friendship as part of a class I am teaching. I’ve always believed that a life is defined by the quality of one’s relationships. We all want the same thing: some level of connectedness with other individuals that that both allows and encourages us to live the best life we can. While at its very beginning and final end, life may be a solo journey, the rest of it is full of human interaction. Our level of happiness during the balance of our existence is most often dictated by how we navigate the dense forest of interpersonal relationships. As usual, Emerson is much more eloquent than I am on this topic and here are a few excerpts from the essay:
I feel fortunate to have made it this far in life. Not everyone gets to have this much time. As we age it becomes more obvious that time is finite. I wish you well on your own journey and that the time you have left is well spent.
I know quite a few people who actually start feeling depressed on Sunday night because work is the next day. Sadly, for many of them, this has been a feeling that has existed for years. I honestly cannot comprehend this state of mind at this point in my life. Sure when I was fresh out of college and new to my professional work life I didn’t always get thrilled about Monday mornings, but as I have progressed in my career and thinking, that is a long distant memory. If what you are doing makes you that unhappy either change how you think about it or choose to do something else. Life is too short for habitual Sunday night misery.
Life is about habits and behaviors. All time represents is a series of moments and actions stitched together that seemingly always exist in the present. We can reflect on what we have done in the past, think about what we may do in the future, but we can really only ever control now. Part of my job is observation. Sadly, my best case study is often myself when it comes to areas of needed improvement. I never cease to amaze myself with what I consciously do wrong and regret later although I am getting better. I am also certain my human experience isn’t unique. You may catch your self doing some of the following things over the course of any given day that inhibit rather than promote feelings of self-satisfaction and happiness:
Change is a fact of life. Like or not we will get older. Our minds will get sharper then grow duller. Out bodies will get hard then grow softer. Friends will come and go. Loved ones will enter this world while others exit. If we have children, they will grow up and become independent adults and leave the nest. Our careers will follow a natural arc of emergence, growth, maturity and decline. We will have periods of minimal responsibility and other moments where it feels like we are overwhelmed with life/work obligations. It is difficult to grasp at times, but very few things will ever stay the same.
Every survey you read about work/career satisfaction is depressing. I can’t believe that so many people go to a job every day that they don’t like and/or are doing work they find uninspiring. Why would someone choose to live that way? I’ve never quite understood the whole idea of simply working until you retire. As people have to work for longer periods of time due to lack of pensions and/or other financial resources this means that individuals will be unhappier for longer periods of time with their chosen profession.
In my line of work, I am constantly on the lookout for life lessons and what leads to happiness and success. Fortunately, I have been blessed to work with some wonderful people who provide me with excellent fodder for my learning. While most of my time is spent on the business leadership front, I do get a larger picture view at times. I have never believed in compartmentalizing important life issues and prefer to take a multidimensional approach to my work since there are no one dimensional human beings. Over the years I found that how you answer the following 12 questions will have a big impact on your overall quality of life:
Most things of importance and value in life require some level of effort. Some people get lucky and have success, happiness and self-fulfillment fall in their lap, but they are few and far between. In life it has always been that little extra effort that makes the difference. We all must accept that there are many people who will be more intelligent, better looking, more talented, have more advantages, and be more capable than us, but only you as an individual decide if they will outwork you. I’ve found that when you are tired and/or feeling lazy and could easily talk yourself out of doing something, but do it anyway, that’s what separates you from the pack. Success in life and business requires consistent, focused, sustained effort.
I was in a meeting with a group of leaders the other day and after being prompted by a question most of them said that they had many acquaintances but very few friends. It was clear they weren’t particularly happy by this fact, but felt their busy life didn’t leave them much of a choice. I find it paradoxical that in a day and age where we have so many more ways to stay connected with other people, every study I read says that people feel lonelier and more disconnected than ever before. This is especially troubling for people in leadership positions because they feel naturally isolated to begin with.
I’ve always thought that the whole concept or work life balance is a bit of an illusion. It’s difficult for me to imagine someone who has a life that is always completely in balance. Things don’t always work out this way. It’s like the idea of a 50/50 partnership or marriage. Rarely do both partners put in the same amount of effort all the time. What you hope is that in the end it all balances out properly. I view my life in the same way. There will be periods when some things take precedence over others and that’s okay as long as it doesn’t become a lifelong habit. However, there are certain aspects of our existence we should be paying attention to all the time (to varying degrees as needed). We ultimately ignore any of these items long-term to our own detriment.
It always bothers me when someone complains about another person’s good fortune by saying they were just lucky. Sure some people get lucky but pure luck is much rarer than you think. Very few people ever win the lottery. Even those that do win big usually play the game for many years before striking it rich. Of course, some people do start out with more advantages than others, but as someone who knows a number of people born into wealthy families; this advantage comes fraught with its own different set of problems. Resenting the success of others is a waste of time and energy. It is also an unattractive character flaw and if you are not careful leads to a victim mentality.
I often worry about people who read too many self-help books and/or set lofty expectations for themselves based on what others think or espouse. Many of these books or speakers attempt to create and communicate a common definition of success and/or happiness that resonates with everyone and is applicable in all situations. They also tend to engender flawed comparisons of reality and potential. It’s almost as if who you are doesn’t matter and that everyone is equally capable in all situations and that there is a proven recipe for managing all life has in store for you.
People are motivated by all types of things and leaders are no different. There are always a few major drivers in an individual’s life that prompt action and focus our activities. Many of these motivators are formed in childhood or young adulthood. They can be good or bad or some degree of both. My personal contention is that living at the far end of any motivational continuum isn’t too healthy. I also believe that what drives you also has a big impact on the formation of your character and your values. We do tend to embody our priorities over time.