Here is why a bit more money on the horizon is so enticing and how to get to that place called success when it seems so elusive…
At this point in my career coaching practice, I’ve worked with some people who are very, very well paid. Yet nonetheless, job satisfaction is elusive. After all, that is why they have come to see me.
In fact, when I ask people what is important in their lives, compensation ALWAYS comes up. I would estimate that 8 in 10 clients want to make more money, while 2 in 10 are willing to do something more in line with their passions if it means accepting a lower salary.
This concept was not new to me. When I was at Harvard Business School a professor of mine told me that he had read research that suggested that whatever compensation someone makes, they believe that around 1.5 times that will make them happy.
In other words, if you make $100k, you believe $150k will make you happy. However, as anyone who has gone from $100k to $150k knows, once you get to $150k you once again need to multiply by 1.5x to get to $225k to be happy… and as anyone who has ever made $225k knows…
The point is that whatever income you earn you adjust to it and it stops being so special, and this in turn requires a new goal that is a little bit further out that we believe will then make us happy.
In some ways, it is like looking at the horizon. No matter where you are, as you move closer to the horizon it moves further away from you.
I thought about this after listening to a podcast by Dan Sullivan. He suggested that one of the greatest reasons for people’s lack of satisfaction in their lives and careers is that they keep looking forward to an unreachable nirvana like life that is similar to the horizon…
You can make progress towards it, and yet it seems the same distance away.
Now while anyone who has read the research on life satisfaction knows this is an oversimplification, there is some merit to his idea.
His suggestion is that you can increase your life satisfaction by looking to the progress you have made relative to where you came from. In other words, by looking backwards.
What I like about this concept is that it provides a way of dealing with reference groups (i.e. people you compare yourself to).
Here is the issue with reference groups: as you experience more success in life, your reference group changes. You tend to spend more and more time with more and more successful people, some of whom are invariably more successful than you are.
This means that whatever your goal is, it keeps getting pushed out as you are exposed to new levels of success. -Thus, it remains on the horizon.
But by looking backwards, you can use yourself as your reference group. Your success becomes about how well you are doing relative to your past.
Of course, this can be dangerous in that nearly all of us have career ups and career downs, but the important thing is how we have grown. In other words, sometimes we may take a step back financially while taking a step forward in developing our own knowledge and skills.
This concept can be used in other domains of life as well. In evaluating our mind, body, relationships, personal achievements, etc.
Now, please don’t think that I am not advocating goals. In fact, I believe that having a clear definition of success for your life is absolutely critical. Instead, what I am suggesting is that while more money is an admirable goal (one that I have myself), to be happier with my current compensation I’m well served by looking at what it was many years ago while also keeping an eye on the future.