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?

Innovate Yourself for Success

brainy smurf

The world around us is changing each day and our relevance is at risk unless we change with it.   Success over the lifetime of your career depends on your ability to detect the subtle dynamics that shape business.  Mega trends have the potential to make you irrelevant or less valuable.  The key to remaining successful in your personal life and career is innovation.

Personal innovation is the ability to learn, adapt and strengthen existing or grow completely new competencies.  Dynamically reconfiguring these competencies given the challenge at hand will decide who succeeds and who does not.  Globalization due to the rapidly change technology environment has the ability to instantly source talent and ideas from all parts of the world.  Your knowledge is the product others want so investing in and innovating your product is what is needed each day.  My daily reminder is the “Brainy Smurf” that my kids bought me a few years back that sits on my desk.   As I prepare for each day, it is an opportunity to think about what I will learn today.  It is a mindset for every meeting or discussion I have.

Here are a few simple ideas to help you incorporate learning and innovation into your work week:

  1. Take a timeout to understand where you are. Most of us operate in the “daily machine” with email overload and extensive demands on our time.  Take a day off specifically to take stock in where you are in your life and career.  It is when we get out of our daily routine that we have an opportunity to evaluate our success and how we must innovate to get back on track.
  2. Plan learning activities in your calendar.  New learning will likely not happen unless you plan time in your busy schedule.  It may be a book you have been wanting to read, attending a conference to learn cutting edge technology or advice from a mentor.  I use a color-coded category in Outlook to tag my learning activities.
  3. Evaluate the external environment and strategic forces that shape your domain.  Your ability to stay relevant is based on offering a service where there is an opportunity, an unmet need and a combination of competencies that make your offering something darn right special.  Business and people typically become irrelevant or less valuable when that don’t understand and adapt to those changing dynamics.  I liken it to conducting a Michael Porter Five Forces (see Wikipedia) analysis of your current role and line of work.  Are you a thought leader in your field?  If not, understand what makes people a thought leader and then you have two options:  get out of the market or execute a robust development plan to close those gaps.
  4. Integrate learning into everything you do.  Optimize your time to activities that support your personal innovation process and decline meetings when you are not required.  Reconfigure that valuable time to learning.
  5. Offer to teach others something new.   We tend to learn more when we need to explain new concepts and theories to others.  Offer to teach something new you are learning to others who are interested in the same topic too!

Learning about our inner self is just as important as innovating our professional competencies.  We change over time and what worked in the past may not anymore.   That includes those relationship that our critical to our success.  Get energized this week by taking time a timeout to decide where and how you will innovate yourself for success!

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