Research is showing that if you want to be really successful it’s important to be HAPPY. Happy people get more opportunities because stressed out people send out signals they are overwhelmed. We tend to bring opportunities to people who are open to them, so stressed, angry or depressed people are less likely to be given opportunities that will improve their lives.
Popular ways of dealing with stress are meditation, exercise, sleep and a healthy diet. That’s all good…but lately I am more interested in the habits of thought and behavior that positively impact our happiness. I am especially interested in everyday decisions that create the twin feelings of optimism and contentment that are the bedrock of human happiness.
Here is ONE HABIT that you can begin to sharpen immediately to give your life the extra zest we all long for. It is simple.
Examine the balance
of your exploration & enjoyment.
EXPLORATION AND ENJOYMENT IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE
When examining the balance of exploration and enjoyment in your personal life, you may want to readjust your happiness ratio between how much you explore new people and new experiences, and how much you enjoy people and experiences that have already proven satisfying. This is how the happiness ratio works…
Human beings crave novelty. Being bored is actually stressful. We enjoy:
• meeting new people,
• going new places,
• eating new kinds of food,
• trying new sports,
• listening to new music,
• trying new dances,
and scores of other new novel experiences we can take advantage of. New people and new experiences are stimulating. They make life interesting and make us interesting.
You get the most benefit from your exploration by being in a conscious state of curiosity. For this reason, exploration can get messy. Being surprised by the unexpected is the payoff of exploration. So, when you’re exploring you must accept the messiness as it comes along. This will reduce your stress as you deal with uncertainty.
For instance, new jobs and new job assignments are stimulating. They stimulate growth, learning and new relationships, as well as interesting challenges. You’re also likely to make more mistakes or encounter new obstacles in a new job. That’s the messy. Stay calm, that’s to be expected.
However, too much novelty can be both risky and shallow. For example, trying a new restaurant every week would certainly be fascinating, but it will also create the risk that you’re going to have many bad meals instead of having more good meals, at your favorite restaurants, proven to serve the food you really enjoy.
Likewise, dating 100 different people in a year might be very interesting, but is likely to be very frustrating. There are a lot of great people in the world AND a lot of crazy ones. So yes, overdosing on novelty and uncertainty carries risks.
The benefit of enjoyment is contentment. Going to several restaurants with the atmosphere and food you deeply enjoy – restaurants you can really count on – reduces stress and increases a sense of belonging and well-being. And although it’s wonderful to discover new places to vacation it’s also comforting to return to places filled with happy memories.
It’s the same as having a few enduring friends that stand by you through thick and thin. This increases your sense of intrinsic worth and personal security.
Research is also clear that happily married or committed couples are much more satisfied with their relationship life than people who drift in and out of temporary relationships. It’s worth remembering the high functioning relationships are ones in which both people enjoy spending time together. It’s the mutual enjoyment that brings about feelings of contentment. (There is no joy in being committed to a toxic relationship.)
So, the key to exploration and enjoyment in our personal life is to evaluate and adjust our happiness ratio within our:
• Friends, and
• Life Experiences
EXPLORATION AND ENJOYMENT IN YOUR WORK LIFE
We should look at the balance between exploration and enjoyment in our work as well. Career exploration often lasts well into our mid 30s. I often advise new graduates to try a high number of job assignments, and even employers for the first ten years of their adult working life. I suggest you go for maximum job stimulation, because failure at a young age is simply learning. Believe me, I know… I lost my first business and everything I owned when I was 28. It was a glorious public failure that resulted in a lifetime of wisdom. Starting your career with broad experience and unconventional choices will have big payoffs as you mature.
Although there are exceptions, most highly successful people begin to narrow their career focus as they enter their 40s. The fruit salad of their varied experience becomes blended into a smoothie of expertise. This is when career enjoyment should begin to flourish. Neuroscience confirms that maximum wisdom is usually gained between the ages of 50 and 70 when neuro connections are combining a lifetime of learning and experience with new opportunities. You experience the self-realization of mastery. Work ceases to be work, but rather pleasant effort that are deeply enjoyable. That’s the goal.
So what’s the key to traveling the road from exploration to enjoyment in your career?
Use these five questions to evaluate the happiness in your career, and help guide your everyday decisions to create those twin feelings of optimism and contentment:
What motivates you? As you are exploring become aware of what kind of work intrinsically interests you. What would you choose to do if all jobs paid the same? Do that.
What stresses you? The same hard, challenging work can be stimulating for one person and soul killing for another. What challenging work gives you energy?
Do you want to lead or support? Some people get deep satisfaction by taking charge while others feel at their best in a supporting role. And your role may change as circumstances do. Fulfill your role.
Is your personality expressed in your work? Each of us is unique. When our uniqueness is valued our sense of belonging deepens. Be sure to seek people and jobs where your personality is most likely to be a plus rather that have to be hidden. Turn up your volume.
Are you doing work that makes you a better person? Our ultimate purpose is self-realization. The most precious feeling at the end of your life is your own self-respect. Don’t do anything that requires you to compromise your integrity or triggers secret shame. Be proud of what you do.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The happiest, most satisfied people are those who have mastered the art of balancing exploration and enjoyment.
This applies to every area of life, every day of your life.
Nourish your soul.