What exactly is an amazing life and how do you live one? Here’s how to get clarity on what an amazing life looks like for you and make progress towards achieving it.
How do you live an amazing life?
It all starts with defining what an amazing life is for you. Now this may sound obvious, but in my experience it is very rarely the case that people consciously define what an amazing life looks like to them and then systematically measure their progress against achieving it.
Instead, many of my most professionally successful clients focus first on an amazing career, more or less assuming that an amazing life will coincide with their amazing career.
This is, after all, what we are told repeatedly in the media: If you achieve a certain income, then you can have certain things, and those certain things will make you happier… (i.e. you will have an amazing life)
And to be fair, one of the great things about your career is that you can easily measure your success in that aspect of your life. It isn’t an exact science, but most of us would agree that broadly speaking career success is defined as some equation that consists of financial compensation, time off, and influence/power over others.
Of course there are other factors, but look how easy it is to measure these items. -It is really easy to know how much you are paid, how much time you have off, and how many people report to you. I know I can very quickly tell you the answer to all three of these questions for nearly every role I’ve had.
Even better, I can show you clear progression on nearly every metric through my career. In other words, career success is really easy to define. Companies even jump in on the effort by giving us titles, making our progress easy to observe.
The challenge is how you define and measure an amazing life.
Defining an amazing life
It starts by defining an amazing life. As I work with clients, I like to use an exercise developed by Laura King, who’s research is shared in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Her recommended exercise is as follows:
Think about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realization of all of your life dreams. Now, write about what you imagined.
In her experiment, she had subjects write a response to this prompt for 20 minutes and then repeat this assignment for each of four consecutive days. I explicitly ask my clients to discuss their career in the context of answering this question.
What I find is that this exercise is both challenging and rewarding for most clients. For some, an amazing life is defined by achievements or experiences across a broad spectrum of activities (e.g. seeing a world cup soccer game, learning to SCUBA dive, etc), while for others the answer is provided in broad strokes (e.g. relationships with friends, raising happy kids, etc).
In King’s experiment, she found that participants were more positive, insightful, optimistic and had a higher sense of responsibility to self as a result of taking the time to do the exercise over four days.
On my side, what I find is that it tends to put the current career challenges facing my clients in context and also provide a much clearer sense of direction for what to do next.
There are a variety of elements that come into evaluating a life, but they often include:
- Career achievement
- Achievements or time spent in hobbies, sports and interests
- Unique experiences & travel
- Time spent with friends
- Time spent with family
- Time spent with spouse
- Health and fitness
- Service to others/Charity
How to measure an amazing life
High achievers will tend to focus on their careers because careers are easily measured. The challenge then becomes how do you measure success in other areas of life?
Consider the goal of raising happy, healthy children who go on to be productive members of society. How do you measure your day to day, year to year progress against that goal? It is very hard to do.
When your kids are 25, you likely have a very good idea of whether you were successful or not. When they are 3, it is a little hard to tell how much progress you are making towards your goal. Still, there are developmental milestones that kids go through and you can easily track how much time you are actually spending with your kids.
The key is to figure out ways to measure progress across all the dimensions of life that matter to you.
While people often use the term work-life balance to describe this concept (see Executive coaching: work-life balance and time for yourself), I believe what people are really looking for is a life that is closer to their definition of an amazing life.
-And of course, if you haven’t defined an amazing life, then there is almost no chance you are living one.