New research by Dr. Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, and Dr. Tim Kasser is showing that people whose primary focus is on money, fame, or beauty tend to be more depressed and have more "behavioral" problems and physical discomfort. People who primarily want to develop close relationships, become more self-aware, or contribute to the community tend to be happier. The key words are primary focus.
They also found that extrinsic satisfactions such as wealth, beauty, and fame don't have to result in dissatisfaction. But it appears that if we achieve those without a meaningful balance in our relationships, growth, or contribution to others, we tend to feel unfulfilled.
Is it because wealth, beauty, and fame are a bit like cotton candy—sweet and fluffy but lacking substance? Is it because they don't relate to our humanness? What does your experience tell you?
"Happiness is having the freedom to be yourself."
—Hilary Swank, actor
There are few limits to what we can do. I read an interesting story about an eighty-five-year-old woman who was a member of a reading group and was also writing a novel. After being turned down by a number of publishers, she found one who was willing to publish her book, which turned into a bestseller. She went on to write two others.
Age can work against us, but it can also work for us. If you are young, you bring fresh ideas. If you are older, you bring wisdom. In the same way, education might or might not help. Being perceptive, effective, or intelligent doesn't require education. What it does require is an understanding of human nature, an open mind, and, often, a sense of humor or an ability to not take ourselves too seriously regardless of how seriously we take our work. There is little that really stands in our way—only that which we allow. Everyone has challenges. It could be time constraints due to family commitments. It could be financial constraints. Those challenges may mean it will take you longer to do what you want to do, but they don't have to mean that you won't do it.
" Achievement seemed to be a double-edged sword for me. I had a subconscious feeling that triumph would always bring a loss. I realized that what was limiting me was the residual pain associated with accomplishment."
—Sela Ward, actor
I don't believe that achieving greatness is about money or position, or even about fame or recognition for accomplishments. I believe that we have the opportunity to achieve greatness when we touch the lives of others. We can do that through our actions and words. We can do it at work and at home. People who accumulate great wealth are remembered for their wealth. But what makes them special is the good they choose to do with their money.
Most people who reach the end of their lives don't think, "I wish I could make one more sale"—or work on one more project or make more money. Most of us would think more about the people we love than the work we didn't get done. Yet it is easy to lose track of what is really important. If someone were to ask you to rank, in order of priority, yourself, your career, and your family, in what order would you place them?
Most people tend to put career first, followed by family, followed by self. Yet if we don't take care of ourselves first, how can we take care of our families, our careers, or anything else? There is no right or wrong when you think about these priorities. It is more a matter of balance. We start to run into difficulties when we get out of balance.
Salespeople can be highly dedicated to their work and their clients. Their work may entail being on call, traveling, or extended hours. Families are often asked to understand and sacrifice, and most times they will—as long as there is a balance. Salespeople have asked me about that balance. They want to know how to better manage their time so they can satisfy not only their clients but their loved ones as well. The bottom line is that if we make all the sacrifices for the job but don't keep the balance with our families, what is the point of the sacrifice? When the job is done, what will you have left? Effective leaders know that they need to plan out their schedules, set boundaries around their availability, and plan time with the people they love.
In one session I facilitated, I had two successful salespeople. One planned vacations for his family. The other never found the time, and his wife wasn't happy about it. As we talked about it, he realized it was time for him to adjust the way he planned his work schedule and family time. His family was always coming in second.
During another sales workshop, one of the people said that as a result of the time he spent on the job he rarely saw his children. On the other hand, I read a story about a fellow who planned his schedule around his children's. He said that when their school calendars came out he would write their events in his calendar and, to the extent that he could, work around them. He said that if something was scheduled on one of those days, he might be late to a meeting or to a business dinner that conflicted with their performances. He said he tries "like crazy" to be home for dinner by being in the car when six o'clock rolls around. He leaves early in the morning. He said if people ask him to dinner, he says he can do breakfast or lunch. He said he had "only a few years to be part of their lives."
I try to take whatever opportunities I have to spend time with my daughters—even if it's just something like driving them to school or taking them to an appointment. I could feel guilty about not doing work during that time, but these occasions don't happen that often, and I don't know how long I will have these opportunities.
Success is achieving goals. Greatness is more than fame. Greatness is touching the essence of the human spirit in meaningful and lasting ways. Every day we have the opportunity to pass along good things or bad things. Whatever we pass along is going to be given by that person to someone else. Which do you prefer to choose?
During a commercial for an auto manufacturer, the announcers interviewed two people about regrets. They say they don't have any until he reveals a secret one has kept from the other. It's funny. But the reality is that it's difficult when a good relationship ends in a bad way.
Don't let a relationship end on a note of regret. Every day we are given the opportunity to change course. Do what you need to today, because you don't know whether you will be given the opportunity tomorrow.
" I sacrificed everything and was left with nothing. I realized that no amount of success could offset losing your life to your business."
—Jeff Soderberg, founder, STG
I have a personal goal of making a difference with others. In doing this, I have challenges to meet and contributions to make. The following are not all of my lifetime goals, but reflect more of the personal qualities that will make a difference to other people.
I would like to:
Be patient when it's most difficult to do so
Understand other people in their frame of reference
Leave a legacy of positive words and deeds