Recently I wrote an article about creating a sustained lifestyle. In the article I introduced a concept which contrasts achievement (doing something meaningful that accomplishes a desired result which gives you joy) and stress (the degree of mental, physical, or emotional strain undertaken to achieve a desired result). In the model I define four different lifestyles driven by achievements and stress, as follows:
This one is a bit of a departure from my typical article topics.
Recently I wrote a book about what I call “good-enough contentment.” It’s an allegory about a forty-something man who is unhappy with his life. After a magical train ride, he learns to define what contentment means in nine areas of his life: career, family, health, friendships, finances, leisure, spirituality, giving, and legacy. Writing the story caused me to look back at my own life--the things I did well and the many mistakes I made. It inspired me to write about nine nuggets that I wish I could go back in time to tell my younger self. Some I would have done the same all over again, others radically different. All, however, are worth putting down in writing to spur your thinking about things you need to start, stop, or continue.
Here they are:
Ahh, social media. Where from the comfort of your living room you can make your point known to millions of people. People and businesses have grown from being virtual unknowns to worldwide phenoms (think “Gangnam Style”) thanks to social media. Then there are those who fell from grace like a lead balloon (think Roseanne Barr, Anthony Weiner, or Paula Deen) because of social media. Both the rises and falls can happen swiftly and without advance warning. Sadly, it doesn’t even have to be true. Fake news travels just as fast as the truth. It just has to be tantalizing. It also doesn’t even have to go viral; a handful of viewers can see something that will alter their opinions of the person posting.
That viewer could be your current or future boss, customer, or business partner.
In Behind Gold Doors-Nine Crucial Elements to Achieve Good-Enough Contentment I discuss how to achieve what I term "good-enough" contentment in your life. The book is a story about Ty, who seemed to have it all, then one day it all changed. At the end of his rope, Ty had a chance encounter with a quirky old woman who brought him on a journey to discover the nine crucial elements of good-enough contentment and helped him put a plan in place to fill his contentment gaps. His outlook on life changed forever as a result of him thinking through each of the contentment areas, re-aligning his expectations to think in terms of good-enough, and creating a prioritized plan to work towards good-enough contentment. If you haven't read the book yet I recommend you pick it up :-).
Done and Done - Promoting Disability Inclusion by Helping Our Autistic Son Transition from College to Workforce
In December 2015 our son Trevor, who was diagnosed with autism at age 5, graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Film and Media Studies. Despite the challenges and all of the change Trevor endured in his college experience, he graduated with a 3.5 GPA with very little assistance. He also experienced living by himself, living with nice and not-so-nice roommates, internships, and a summer job as a photographer at a boys camp in North Carolina. He gained a tremendous amount of life experience and learned a ton about himself as a person. His graduation in December put an exclamation point on a very rich college experience. But college is only one race in the marathon called life; his next race - employment - was yet to start. Read more
Typically, career choices are made based upon responsibilities, compensation, or prestige where a businessperson makes a change to get a higher salary, more responsibility, or greater prestige. What about the situation, though, where the driver behind a career choice isn’t any of these; where it’s the needs of a child that drive the change? My choice was precisely that.
Trevor was a happy, normal, active baby. He was able to laugh, coo, cry, and do all of the other normal things that his big sister, Briana did at that age. To my wife Patty and me, everything seemed to be just fine. At about age two, we noticed that Trevor was hardly saying any words and was very into his own world with puzzles, coloring, and videos.
Recently Patty and I met up with our financial advisor to walk through our long-term finances. A key component of that discussion was about our net worth, defined as assets minus liabilities. While we had a very fruitful discussion that resulted in some great take-aways, it got me to thinking about how easy it is to focus on a single aspect of one's life and derive how good (or bad) one might be doing based on that aspect. Don't get me wrong; one's net worth is certainly an important measure that needs to be tended to. My point is that there is more to life than net worth when looking at your overall contentment. This hit home for me with the suicides of famous figures Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and others. These are people who appeared to have it all but to them something was so missing that it caused them to commit a horribly sad act. Lives ended too early; my prayers go to their loved ones.
In thinking about contentment, I looked hard at what, to me, are the most important driving factors behind contentment. Keep in mind my analysis is not from a point of scientific expertise; rather it is from a point of practicality as to what I think are the most important drivers. I've honed my list to 8:
Now I completely realize that some of these above drivers are extremely important to some or not at all important. My point is not to second guess your importance level; what I do believe necessary is to decide how important each of the above drivers are to you. If something is not at all important to you then that is certainly your choice. Just be mindful of avoiding something that could adversely impact you later. As example, if you say financial contentment is not at all important and you decide not to financially plan for the future then you might be creating a problem for yourself later in life.
So what now? I put together a simple excel spreadsheet which allows you to assess, for each of the contentment drivers, how important it is to you, what makes you content, and how you could be more content. I think it's important to articulate both what makes you content and how you could be more content for a couple of reasons. First, it allows you to celebrate things you are already happy with. Second, it enables you to improve on some things which you may already be doing well.
If you find this helpful, you can download the excel template to help you self-assess yourself based on the 8 drivers. Download it here.
As always, would love to hear what you think. let me know your thoughts in below comments.
Keynote Speaker | Board Director | Autism Advocate | Author | Project Management Expert | Microsoft/Accenture Veteran
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Some time back I was having breakfast with a couple of guys that I work with in one of the organizations which I volunteer. In this organization, I have been leading a group of about nine men for about four months to set a vision for the group, decide upon our key focus areas, and lay out activities which the group will undertake for the next year. I was very pleased with how the team "gelled" and the fact that we seemed to be moving the ball forward towards meeting our vision. During breakfast, one of the guys told me that, by and large, the team was happy with me but a couple felt that I came in too heavy-handed and authoritarian. Blech.
As leaders we have a responsibility to ensure that our area is managed effectively and that we are driving the organization to achieve its stated objectives. We also have a responsibility to grow the next generation of leaders to ensure that the great work we've done continues on after we've moved on. Keep some of these nuggets in mind as you ponder making the next generation of leaders great:
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