There are four simple words that are ruining your life.
Four simple words, seemingly meaningless when uttered, as if they didn’t have the power to stop time and kill dreams. They are comfort coma-inducing as they insidiously invade your psyche and innocently usher you down the path of procrastination justification.
Four simple words: “I’ll be happy when…”
In even murmuring these words, you hand over your power and your happiness to forces outside of your control. To that, I say: Hard pass! Screw that. Why wait to be happy? Why put off for tomorrow what you can, need, and must have today?
All of us get but just one fleeting whisper of time on this big, juicy, beautiful planet. Why not demand a big, juicy, beautiful life too? The average person lives 27,375 days. That’s 657,000 hours. Why not love every one of those hours, whether you are at work or at play?
“I’ll be happy when I clock out.”
“I’ll be happy when I’m on vacation.”
“I’ll be happy when I retire.”
What on earth are you waiting for?
If your work isn’t helping you live the life you want to live, then you need to find yourself different work – work that contributes to what matters to you. It should reflect the values you wish to live or the lifestyle you’d like to afford. It should help you build your career. It should help you manifest your values. It should have a purpose.
But that purpose doesn’t have to be some lofty purpose, a higher calling writ large. It just has to be a purpose that matters to you. Want to cure cancer? Yeah, let’s do it. Want to start your own business? Go get it! What to buy a maserati and a beach house? Perfect, just don’t forget your sunscreen.
For your work to matter — for you to be happy “now” and not “when” — it needs to be attached to something that actually matters to you. There is no day in the week called “someday” so stop waiting for it to roll around on the calendar. Instead, decide what matters to you now.
Figuring Out What Matters
In order to figure out what matters to you, you’ll need to stop listening to everyone else’s version of what matters to them. All that does is put you on a treadmill that speeds up, faster and faster, but gets you nowhere. And, that’s because the problem isn’t how we achieve success, it’s how we define success. We can work our asses off, filing all the right check boxes of generally accepted, externally defined success, but still feel empty. We still feel limited.
And here’s why: You can’t be insatiably hungry, or deeply inspired, or happily fulfilled by someone else’s goals. In order for your working life to feel right for you, it has to actually be right for you. So, here’s what what that means for you: Being limitless comes not from achieving externally defined success, but achieving consonance, where what you do matches who you are (or want to be).
That requires doing something different. The first step in throwing off the shackles of everyone else’s expectations and becoming limitless is to ignore everyone else’s definitions of success and create your own, owning how much importance you place on, and from where you derive, the four elements of calling, connection, contribution, and control.
Calling is a gravitational pull towards a goal larger than yourself—a business you want to build, a leader who inspires you, a societal ill you wish to remedy, a family you want to grow, a cause you wish to serve.
Connection gives you sightlines into how your everyday work (whether paid or unpaid) serves that calling by solving the problem at hand, growing the company’s bottom line, or reaching that goal.
Contribution is an understanding of how this job, this brand, this paycheck contributes to the community you want to belong, the person you want to be, or the lifestyle you’d like to live.
Control reflects how you are able to influence your connection to that calling in order to have some say in the assignment of projects, deadlines, colleagues, clients, or other use of your time; offer input into shared goals; and do work that contributes to your family or career trajectory and earnings.
Figuring out what matters takes a bit of introspection, and a whole lot of self love and honesty. To expedite the journey, and provide some guidance, I’ve created a short quiz that will build a framework for you to follow to find and conquer your own version of consonance, determining how much calling, connection, contribution, and control you have and you want so that the “what you do” matches the “who you are.”
Here’s the good news: there are no wrong answers. The only right answer is the right answer for you. And the only one who gets a vote in figuring that out is — you guessed it — also you.