You’re on your way to work, behind the wheel of your new your Mercedes. You look at your Rolex and hope you will make it on time, dreading an early meeting with a difficult client. Your day already begins with a nagging feeling that something’s not right.
You feel a non-descript emptiness. Something is missing. But you can’t put your finger on it…
After all, you are successful. You have attained everything you ever wished for. So, why are you not happy?
To diagnose this malaise, let’s start at the beginning.
What is success? How do you know when you’ve made it? What are the markers of success?
The culture of success is deeply ingrained in us and starts early in our family lives. Every family has a unique culture. It defines what professions are acceptable, like a doctor or a lawyer.
Perhaps your family owned a business and expected you to continue with the family tradition, even though you had no interest in it.
Or you may be compensating for a humble start and want to achieve from your professional life the things you wished for growing up.
In our places of employment, we also face unforgiving success cultures that impose conformity and demand blind following to a “partnership track” or adhere to an “up or out” mentality and a strict dress code that forbids individuality.
The office stars are expected to miss holidays or family events—that can never be replaced—to be at the office burning the midnight oil or bringing in the bucks.
And what about shaming? Suspense builds as the monthly reports are due and co-workers salivate to see who had the highest sales and billable hours.
What do these definitions of “success” have in common?
They all come from sources external to us and may have little, if anything, to do with our personal goals, dreams and wishes. They are out of alignment with the deepest desires of our hearts.
No wonder we feel so empty. And there’s no one to talk to about this, as everyone else in our milieu is consumed by this fascination with success.
A different way to look at success
Success is an inside job. A state of mind.
True success is about doing what you love and loving what you do in the service of the highest good.
It’s about using our unique talents and abilities to make this world a better place in a way that fulfills us.
Money buys nice things—but is it everything? Should it be the driving force behind your actions?
Does it best serve your personal health and family life?
Have you ever noticed in the news that, when a “regular” person meets a sudden death–whether by illness, accident or homicide–their friends, families and neighbors mourn bitterly, underscoring how these extraordinary human beings will be missed?
They dwell on how these individuals selflessly served their families and communities looking out for the poor, coaching little league or delivering meals on wheels.
Does anybody ever mention that they spent 90 hours in the office every week?
In the scheme of things—does it matter?
How do you want to be remembered when you die? As the loving child, devoted partner, parent and community member or as the top professional in your field?
It’s your choice.
Joy and fulfillment are the true markers of success
Take a look at your life. Are you fulfilled?
Does your work bring you joy?
Does it allow for activities that nourish your heart and soul? Or do you feel irritable and burnt out?
If you are not fulfilled, isn’t NOW a good time to take an honest look at your life?
You may resist saying, “I have a family to support. I have three kids to put through college.”
Please do not get me wrong.
I am not suggesting you quit your job and go surfing.
What I am suggesting is that you spend a few minutes doing inventory.
Rediscover your dreams and passions and incorporate them into your schedule. Yes, put them on your schedule.
What I am advocating for is more balance in your life. Making room for rest and play against a backdrop of fulfilling, stimulating work.
Ponder this… Why do you want to spend so much time at work? To make money? To avoid intimacy with your partner? To get away from screaming kids? Not dealing with tormenting thoughts and personal issues that may be difficult to confront?
Do you get immersed in your work because you find it enjoyable and rewarding? Or is it just to pay the bills?
Then ask yourself: “What brings me joy? What kinds of activities can I lose myself into? When am I most happy?”
These are pressing questions that demand honest answers. Take a pen and paper and write them down. And then take the actions your heart begs you to. Now.
Once you identify your joys and passions, devote time to rejuvenating activities as a hobby, volunteer opportunity or special assignment at work.
And involve your loved ones in this endeavor. Talk to your family about priorities. Would your partner enjoy more time together? Would your kids prefer you to be present at their school plays, games and holidays?
Many grown men I know are still wounded by absent parents too busy making a living to give them the attention they craved as children. And that time can never be recouped. And this neglect has ripple effects on their relationships with their own children.
Don’t let it happen to you.
Take a class in a subject that thrills you or start a hobby that you’ve been curious about. Indulge in the extreme sport or adventure travel that makes your heart go “thump.” Or plan outings with the family that are pure, unadulterated fun!
What are you waiting for? The time to make life happen is now!
Make joy a priority—today!
Your loved ones will thank you for it. And you will be glad you did.
May you find your purpose, live your passions and experience joy!