“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.” — James Openheim
One of my former managers is going on their next adventure and we got to talking about how you know when you’re making the right moves and what really matters. It really comes down to just a few vital things that you can use to stay the course of life.
It’s easy to lose ourselves as we bend ourselves more and more to fit into this situation or that particular job or that particular place. Eventually you can break yourself against your own values or lose your lust for life. How do you get back to what really matters? As your job changes under your feet or as the world around you changes in ways you didn’t expect, how do you find your way forward? … How do you get back "on path"? … or how do you get "on path" to begin with? You need a simple mental model of your path.
Don’t Break Yourself Against Your Values
If you don’t have a simple mental model of your path, then you can lose yourself in the process of adapting to your world. You stop spending time in the things that you enjoy from the inside out. You take on more things that suck your life force out, while giving up the things that fuel your fire. You start to change yourself in ways to fit the mold that break you against yourself … it’s a slippery slope and it can be tough to know what to hold on to, or what to let go. Life’s a crazy game of Chutes and Ladders but with a twist … only you can decide how to respond and what success looks like for the life you want to lead.
A Simple Model for What Really Matters
I think the ultimate keys to a simple mental model are this:
- Who do you want to be?
- What experiences do you want to create?
From there, you can balance against a small set of inputs and drivers:
- Are you fulfilling your mission or purpose? (What do you feel compelled to do or what puts the spring in your step?)
- Are you giving your best where you have your best to give?
- Are you living your values?
- Are you spending time in your strengths or your super skills?
- Are you spending more time on the things you want, and less time on the things you don’t?
Why Does This Model Help You Achieve More of What Matters
Let’s walkthrough why this model can help you achieve more of what counts:
- By spending more time in your strengths (your natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and doing), you give yourself limitless energy and limitless capacity to carve a path forward in a bountiful way. The opposite is also true, if you spend all your time in your weaknesses, then just like the game Gauntlet, you can actually feel your life force running out.
- By giving your best where you have your best to give, you unleash your unique, competitive advantage in a Darwin world of survival of the fittest. At the same time, you also unleash your unique contribution to the world in a way where you are the world’s number one candidate for that unique position. This is a Blue Ocean strategy way of driving your day, instead of competing in the Red Ocean.
- By living your values, you set the stage for more happiness and fulfillment in your life. If you value adventure, then lead a life of adventure. If you value family, then make your family a priority. If you value learning, then lead a life of continuous learning. The key here is to boil your set of values down to a handful of five that you prioritize the rest of your life with. This is your personal recipe for getting fire in the belly.
- By spending more time in the things you want, you spend your ultimate, unique, and priceless resource … your time. Some say time is all we’ve got. By finding ways to spend more time in your strengths and more time in your values, you automatically improve the quality of your time. This doesn’t mean you have to chase after the wild blue yonder, but instead, you can grow happiness right under your feet.
- By fulfilling your mission or purpose, you bring it all together in a compelling way forward. As Covey might say, it becomes your "North Star" or your "internal compass."
Stack the Deck in Your Favor for More Happiness
Here is one more key. It’s the key to happiness. You have two chances at happiness all the time. One is how happy are you, in the moment. The other is how happy are you with your life? The first case is about how happy you feel in the moment. The other is about fulfillment. By spending more time in your strengths, values, and the experiences you want to create, the more often you’ll experience happiness in the moment. The more you drive your purpose and give your best where you have your best to give, the more directly you’ll address fulfillment.
So that, my friends, is my story of what really matters.
If you want a step by step approach on building this simple mental model, see my free eBook, You 2.0.
Best Books on Purpose and Meaning
- Work from the Inside Out: Seven Steps to Loving What You Do, by Nancy O’Hara
- Start with Why, by Simon Sinek
- Who Are You and What Do You Want?, by Mick Ukleja and Robert Lorber
You Might Also Like
- Find Your One Thing
- Guide Your Path with Vision, Values, and Goals
- Ikigai: The Reason for Which You Wake Up in the Morning
- What’s Worth Doing Today?
Photo by DaizyB.