Is living the dream possible? I know it is. Here’s how…
What if I told you that you could have it all?
I’m guessing that statement would meet with a fair degree of skepticism, and you would probably ask me to prove it. Fair enough.
I have done a tremendous amount of research on careers, life satisfaction and happiness… and if I were to boil it all down to 4 themes, here is what they would be.
- Take care of yourself physically.
- Take care of yourself mentally.
- Nurture your relationships.
- Find the right career.
Almost everything I have read on what creates a good life fits into the above four categories. So let me explain a bit.
Take care of yourself physically
We all know about the mind body connection, but if you read the research you can’t help but be amazed at the impact taking care of your body has on your mental state. The secret to taking care of yourself physically: Eat well, exercise, and get at least 7 hours of sleep.
Now you can debate what eating well looks like, what type of exercise to do, and whether or not to buy a sleep mask or listen to white noise at bedtime, but in principle these activities are what work.
I’ve known about the body’s impact on my mental state since at least 2006 when I started working with The Energy Project (a spin off from Human Performance Institute, a group focused on work with pro-athletes). Nevertheless, I had stopped exercising in any meaningful way other than walking for years and years until relatively recently.
All I can say is, “wow.” I forgot what a difference it makes to feel like you are in good health. I have more energy, better ideas, can better absorb stress… it is great.
Take care of yourself mentally
Very, very few people take the time to develop their mental powers these days. In my mind, training your mind involves three core activities: meditation, cognitive training on how to interpret events (e.g. how to be more optimistic), and spiritual work (i.e. reading or taking part in activities that fill you with a sense of connection to the broader world).
These activities are not hard, but they require time. Giving your mind time to sit still and meditate can seem like the least productive thing in the world when you have deadlines and barely a moment to yourself. -And yet it can literally rewire your brain in making you more positive.
I personally started meditating in 2005, but had a very on/off relationship with the activity. In 2006 I dug deep into the research and convinced myself it was something I needed to do every day. In 2007 it fell off my habits list as I moved across the country.
Soon thereafter it became a crutch I used during times of extreme stress as a way to calm me back down, but little more. It was only about 9 months ago that I started meditating again with any regularity, and I can say that the effects are great.
I don’t get rattled as easily, have more patience, and am more focused on the activities I have each day.
Nurture your relationships
Relationships are absolutely essential to a happy life, and yet in this day and age of geographic relocation and 24/7 work, we seem to pay them less attention than ever. (Facebook friendships are not relationships, just FYI.)
The longest running study on happiness (watch the TED talk here) found that the key to a happy life was close relationships.
Yet how much time do we spend with the people that matter most to us? Sometimes even the time we spend with our spouses and children can feel transactional and cold.
It is up to us to value those moments (See Executive Coaching: The #1 Thing Your Kids Want from You) because they are what really matter.
Recently I had a rare opportunity to sit with one of my favorite people on his boat overlooking the San Diego waterfront. Now, to provide a moment of context, he lives on his boat, and chances are it is worth less than your car.
We were talking about life, ambitions, etc and he said to me, “You know, if I had hundreds of millions of dollars and owned one of those 150 foot motor yachts over there, what I would want to be doing is exactly this. Having a beer with my good friend, talking about life and looking at the water. Sure, the seats would be more comfortable, but I would be doing the same thing and be just as happy.”
There is wisdom in that. Sometimes we get so caught up in reaching for the next thing that we don’t stop and ask why. In the end, most of us would like to spend our time with good friends enjoying each other’s company… and we should invest more in doing that.
Find the right career
So many people get this wrong. I wish I could say I was different. I got it wrong too for many, many years despite knowing all the research (See How to be happier than a billionaire). I did something I was good at that I didn’t love because it was lucrative.
The funny thing is, people have been talking about the right livelihood for a long, long time. At least 500 years BC this issue was raised in the Buddhist tradition, and no doubt by others even earlier (that’s over 2500 years ago!).
My point is this: A great career is one that fills you with a sense of purpose, excites you with possibilities and engages your creativity. -And if you are talented, it can pay you really, really well. Anything less is settling, which is unfortunate when you spend most of your waking hours at work.
Bringing it all together
So what do you do about all of the above? Here is the key: it isn’t about having knowledge of all of the above, it is about having a system for putting it into action.
I’ve developed such a system, and I can tell you that it is doing amazing things for me. -It’s still in “beta” version, but I’m really happy with my results. For so many years, I had the knowledge but wasn’t getting all of the results. Now I’m experiencing them, and it is great.
So, if you’re interested in applying the ideas above, send me an email and let’s talk about how you can truly have it all.