Part of a series on The Happiness – Success Connection
In the past eight years, I’ve heard from hundreds of professionals who’ve worked with other career coaches and consultants to no avail. They failed to generate the change or success they wanted, and wasted time, money and energy. I believe there is one key reason for this – that the vast majority of the “work” people do today to achieve more success and happiness is the wrong kind of work.
Through my training as a therapist and energy healer as well as a coach, I’ve learned that this ineffective type of work focuses only on outer tactics, behaviors and actions, such as: spruce up your resume, build a great support network, apply for the right job, learn how to interview and negotiate for yourself. Sadly, none of these outer tactics will bring you the success and fulfillment you long for if you’re not doing internal work as well to stretch yourself, to recognize how you habitually trip yourself up, and address it.
Doing the tough inner work – of knowing yourself intimately and committing every day to shaping your habits, thinking and behaviors in a more positive, life-affirming and connective way – is what makes life more satisfying and your career filled with more meaning, purpose and joy.
To create more happiness and success, there are the 8 inner experiences and processes you need to explore – and modify – as these affect everything you see, think, and perceive:
I hear from strangers every day telling me what they hope and dream for in life and work, and what they expect. The trouble is that their expectations are more often than not based on faulty logic and reasoning. They think that once they make a certain amount of money, or get a promotion, or find a new husband, or get rid of their toxic boss, or lose 20 pounds, they’ll be happy. It doesn’t work that way. The outer change you crave is possible only after you change how you’re operating in the world and your inner experience, including your expectations. If you expect that good should come to you, but you’re not actively participating in bringing about positive change, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Some common faulty expectations I hear daily are:
– I don’t need to fight hard for what I want – I’ll just get it.
– I’m loyal to my company – I know loyalty will come back from them in return.
– Once I become a VP and make six figures, I’ll be happy.
– If I pursue work I’m passionate about, it has to work out.
– I’ll never be let go – I’m too valuable.
None of these expectations will be met if you don’t understand the full context around these outcomes, and take the right action to bring into being what you desire. You are 50% of every situation and every relationship. Are your expectations grounded in reality, and are you owning your 50% and doing what’s necessary?
Your definition of happiness
One of my favorite authors — positive psychology expert Shawn Achor — explained this week on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, “Happiness is the joy we feel on the way to reaching our highest potential, and happiness is a choice. “ I couldn’t agree more. (Here’s more about Shawn’s groundbreaking work in experiencing more happiness in your life.) If happiness is defined only by outer goals and events, it will be fleeting, unsatisfying and unsustainable. On the other hand, if you can redefine happiness (and choose to see it) as the feeling you experience as you strive to reach your highest self and highest potential – now that’s something deep, enduring, and enlivening.
Shawn’s extensive research and other recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that our society’s concept of happiness (work hard and you’ll be successful, and happiness will follow) is completely backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just fluff. This important discovery has been borne out repeatedly by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the world. Shawn teaches how we can – in five easy steps — reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work and create more success, happiness and reward in our lives. These steps are:
1. Bring gratitude to mind – Write down three new things that you are grateful for each day
2. Journal – About a positive experience you’ve had recently for 2 minutes once a day
3. Exercise – Engage in 15 minutes of mindful cardio activity
4. Meditate – Watch your breath go in and out for 2 minutes a day and
5. Engage in a random, conscious act of kindness – For example, write a 2-minute positive email thanking a friend or colleague, or compliment someone you admire on social media
Do these steps for 21 days, and you will begin to see a lasting shift in your mindset towards more positivity and happiness.
Your decision making
Decisions are fundamental tools that help you face life’s challenges, uncertainties and opportunities. And the quality and efficacy of your decisions will determine how successful, fulfilled and productive you’ll be. Your decisions can only be good and productive when you focus on the right problem. When you are facing a decision, make sure you identify the deepest root of the problem, and address that directly. If you hate your career and have for years, for instance, look carefully at the source of the problem, and what has contributed to your staying stuck in a professional life you dislike intensely. Don’t focus only on contextual issues such as a toxic boss, a back-stabbing colleague, or a lack of stimulating responsibility. Those issues might make your current situation less appealing, but they’re not at the root of your long-term career dissatisfaction. Something deeper is.
Don’t skimp on this process and take the easy way out. Address the most critical issues and problems you need to resolve.
Your goal setting
The most important part of goal-setting is that your goals are natural outgrowths of who you are and what you care about. If your goals are in conflict with your authentic values and beliefs, you won’t achieve them. You’ll sabotage the path to these goals, because deep down, the attainment of them feels wrong. Or, you’ll break yourself in the effort to bring about the goal only to wake up to the realization that what you’re left with is empty and meaningless.
Look at the goals you have in place in your life – do they make you feel alive? Do they represent the highest version of you? Will you be proud of yourself for attaining them? Do they inspire you? And are these goals within your reach, or are there so far down the chain of destiny that they hold no juice for you, because you can’t even believe in your ability to attain them?
Make your goals S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-related – and reflective of your highest potential. Set exciting, juicy 3-month, 6-month, one- year and five-year goals. Get someone you trust and admire to hold you accountable to meet them.
Your commitment to action
Certainly, it’s important to consider carefully before you take action, and weigh all the options before you. But once you’ve thought it through and evaluated the best next step, you have to take the step. This is where so many fall down. They think, think, think (and rethink) but fail to act. I learned in my therapy training that all the insight in the world doesn’t necessary change anything. Anyone who has endured a challenging childhood or troubled family life knows that. We can look back and understand very clearly what was going on in our families and why, but that doesn’t mean we’ve healed ourselves from the trauma of it just because we understand it. To do that, you have to take action – and a very different type of action than you’re used to. You have to commit to putting one step in front of the other each and every day on the way to a more expansive life that reflects and honors your talents, passions, interests, values, and your non-negotiables. (Take this self-assessment to learn what you want to commit to going forward.)
Your risk tolerance
If you won’t risk, you won’t grow. And if you don’t grow, you won’t be happy. Happiness comes when you stretch out of your fears and your complacency, and believe in yourself enough to work toward reaching your highest potential. That doesn’t happen if you stay imprisoned within your comfort zone. People who are afraid of risk also blunt other positive emotions and life experiences as well, such as vulnerability, connection, intimacy, love, and self-examination. What actions are you avoiding because you’re afraid to risk?
Your openness to failure
Everyone on this planet has faced a fear of failure numerous times – it’s a universal human experience. But people who inspire you do so because they pushed through the fear, crushed it down, and kept going through failure to the other side. I hear this question constantly, “But what if I fail at this new direction?” My answer is, “Then you fail. So be it. You’ll learn from it, grow from it, and you will never be the same after it.” There are simply no guarantees in life, so stop holding out for them.
I also tell them, “You can’t unring a bell.” Once that special bell of knowledge and experience has been rung, you’ll be forever changed and much stronger and wiser because of it. Embrace your fear of failure, and move through it. Failure doesn’t kill you – it strengthens you, and teaches you how to proceed differently to get to where you want to go in a better way. (Here’s billionaire Sara Blakely’s story about how embracing failure prepared her for her amazing success.)
Your self-love and self-acceptance
I’m all for gaining more clarity about our power gaps, missteps, foibles, and challenges. But I’ve seen that having a strong dose of self-love and self-acceptance is critical to happiness and success. You simply can’t experience a good, happy life if you reject yourself constantly – if you put yourself down, put yourself last, and make your thoughts, emotions and experiences wrong.
So many people I speak with doubt their instincts, and act against their better judgment. They say “no” to themselves and to what they believe and want because they honor the opinions and judgments of others over their own.
Happiness and success come in much greater abundance when you start from a place of simply loving who you are (warts and all) and accepting yourself in the face of your imperfections. From that place of acceptance, you can more readily achieve a deeper connection to the world around you, and move towards your highest potential. You don’t need a new personality – you need to open your eyes to who you really are (which is amazing, talented, and important in the world).
What (or who) stops you from loving and accepting yourself?
Do the work of revising these 8 critical inner processes, and you will be on the path to creating the lasting happiness and success you long for.
(To build a happier, more rewarding career, visit kathycaprino.com)