Learn to want what you already have

In his book “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy”, William B. Irvine shares a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation. It’s a process by which people find themselves on a satisfaction treadmill due to their insatiability and boredom to constantly want more. This often leads to unhappiness and the destruction of relationships, financial health and apathy in the workplace. Once someone fulfills the object of their desire, their life “adapts” to this new state and the desirability fades. People return to the same dissatisfied state (or even lower) before fulfilling the desire they believed would bring happiness. This leads us to a fundamental idea we must learn and continually practice each day:

“The easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have” – William B. Irvine

The technique to mitigate hedonic adaptation is called negative visualization. It’s conscious thought of imagining that we have lost the things we value. The loss of a relationship, the job you once loved or the death of a loved one. This can prevent the slow, unconscious process of adaption to a life we did not envision. A state that leads us to take people, our health and possessions for granted. That insatiable desire for the latest gadget, fancy clothing to impress others or the fantasy of an unethical relationship that alters us off the path we have set for ourselves. It can be illusive and hard to detect because it occurs in small doses over time.

Hedonic adaptation also impacts our careers. We are lucky to land the job we wanted but over time we can become frustrated with our responsibilities, colleagues and look for reasons to complain. This leads us to starting the search all over again to a greener pasture that may not exist. Embrace the amazing job you have and take accountability to deliver value before moving on to your next gig. This will drive fulfillment and credibility instead of wasting energy and valuable time. Organizations and people will evaluate you based on the impact you delivered in your last job.

Counterbalancing hedonic adaptation requires mindful discipline. Pause throughout a busy day and reflect on all you do have and the possibility of losing it all. The activities you enjoy, the freedom of movement and the quality times you share with people in your life. Look for the goodness in a relationship and why you value their companionship. Value your car for what it is – transportation, instead of seeking a new one to give you social status that nobody cares about. Learning to want what you already have is a mental state within your control. Don’t put off something to tomorrow that you can do today. That opportunity may not be there tomorrow.

“All things human, are short-lived and perishable.” – Seneca

This positive mindset frees us from the pleasure treadmill and taking joy in things external to ourselves. This mindset motivates us to make the most of each day. Embracing the goodness in our lives and what we already have, helps us remain focused on our unique path. The days of our career journey are numbered. You have everything you need right now to realize remarkable achievement. Now get going.

Career Strategy Demystified to One Page

Life is too precious not to be thoughtful and deliberate about how you allocate your time, talent and treasure. Managing a career can be a complicated topic with many aspects to coordinate and consider. The path we choose and the decisions we make each day have a significant influence on our health, happiness and prosperity.

Surprisingly, how to approach career strategy effectively is rarely taught in schools at any level. Organizations are not in the best position to offer a comprehensive curriculum given that career strategy starts with understanding who you are at a deeply, personal level. The topic we all struggle with had to be demystified.

In 2008, I authored a framework of seven connected strategies to give professionals a process for answering critical questions and shaping their mindset. I continue to evolve it as I learn new ideas and experiences in a new phase of my life.

Download the Career Strategy Framework one-pager for a seven step roadmap.

Even in the light of daily chaos and uncertainty that surrounds our life, there is a sense of calmness and confidence when you have a deliberate and strategic career direction. Start the journey to reach your full potential – we only get one shot.

How do you feel about your answers to the seven questions?

Target a Unique Path That Is Within Your Control

The virtues of Stoic philosophy remind us that peace and tranquility is deep rooted in focusing on what is in your control. That requires our mind to filter out what we are not responsible for. This produces clarity of thought and focus to make quality choices. Therefore, we are best served when we target a unique career path that is our choice and within our control. This cannot be taken away from you.

Remember: you are responsible for your career – not your boss or the company you work for. Letting external forces and entities decide your path will only disrupt your serenity and constrain your freedom. Only you know how the combination of your unique talents can be best allocated to reach the highest potential of life.

Once you decide a unique path that is yours, embrace Seneca’s idea of euthymia – “believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction”.

Superior performance in our careers does not come from following others into markets where there is abundant supply and lack of barriers to enter those markets at will. Avoid the distractions of the day to keep your focus on the path you control. Stay the course, while navigating through external forces and events that will cross your path. This strategic choice of your unique path is what can fuel your freedom and happiness.

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