“Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get” W.P. Kinsella
Isn’t success something we all strive for or at least wish for? Ever vying to be top dog or at very least the best we can be. Shooting for goals and doing our absolute darndest to get there.
As we all know, sometimes we do achieve our goals and sometimes, for all kinds of reasons, we just don’t. Either way, what often happens is when we do hit them … well, we just don’t quite have the feelings of accomplishment we actually thought we would. Another outcome I’ve commonly seen is when we do win, those all-important positive feelings of satisfaction and achievement just simply don’t seem to last. There’s a very simple reason for this. And a solution.
One of the most common presenting client issues for me is that of professionals turning up at my door, often already having achieved pretty well – you know, got the house, car, money in the bank and even perhaps enough to retire already – but they still feel that somehow something is missing. The juice to get going, to be fired up, is just not there anymore. Life seems monochromatic and bland despite all the apparent trappings.
Of course we can simply suck it up and plod on regardless. However, without any real motivation, any inner fire, how the heck is any real success (or future gains) in life ever going to happen? And besides: Is that a life anyone truly wants so why would you do that?
What we then see is this fundamental sense of lack not only negatively impacts on the work and business front, but often enough also lands us in the same hot water at home. To think one domain doesn’t leak unhelpfully into the other is simply delusional. The well-known US author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once aptly said
‘I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.’
Analyst Richard St John in a terrific TED talk describes how after surveying more than 800 leaders on this very subject that the number one reason for success to all those surveyed was passion – meaning finding what truly fires you up. Discovering or creating that spark can actually be an easier job than you might imagine but it usually needs a little outside help.
The humourist Arnold H Glasgow once quipped
‘Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.’
To me, how to find the fire and to tend well it begins with one simple question, and that is:
‘What really is success?’
To you I mean. Your own individual unique definition of it. This inquiry doesn’t have to take long but it typically might take an ability to drop a little deeper than the first response that pops up.
So say your first answer is ‘An extra £100K per annum.’ Then that’s great. Very specific. But then ask what is that providing? Is the £100K success? Or is it the means to buy you something else you actually define as the goal of success?
What we want to do is get to the heart of what you’re seeking.
Our next million dollar question (don’t laugh, it may well be!) is:
Why is it that important to you? What does it truly serve? A cool simple hack with this is to ask yourself this same ‘Why?’ question at least three times and let the answers bubble up, rather than try to analyze. In doing so we activate the neural real estate of heuristics and intuition. Try it. If you think that’s a bit woo woo then have a peek at the work of the prestigious Max Plank Institute for Human Development’s director Gerd Gigerenzer before you bin it so easily.
That might look like this:
‘Success here is moving up to take head of department.’
Now for those three ‘Whys?’
- ‘Because I deserve it after all I’ve done here?’
- ‘Because I’ve worked really hard and always shown up.’
- ‘Because I really love doing what I do here.’
We can easily keep going and with each round you can hopefully see more is getting revealed about what is actually operating and motivating ‘under the hood’ here. Once we drop into in that space, we begin to discover whether we’re truly on track … or not!
We often set out thinking we have clear goals and ideas of what will make us feel fulfilled, safe and happy, however as often, how these came into being has usually never been fully thought through or explored. If that’s the case, then my the course we’re on is not going to bring us any feelings of real lasting success. Being crystal clear about what defines success for you and also clarifying the ‘Why’ are the first vital steps in the journey to doing so. Miss them at your peril.
There’s more to this picture for sure. Important work such as values clarification and alignment. You can find more on these areas too on the site, all of which can help you figure what those next steps on your own journey towards greater clarity, happiness, security and success might be.
Or get a coach!