You know, you went all out to create the conditions in your life that you believed would enable you to run a business, or do the corner office job on your terms. You thought that was the way to set yourself up for the happiness and freedom you craved.
Except, now you’re here you find it doesn’t quite work that way.
Maybe you’re feeling like you’ve just swapped one lot of pressures and expectations for another.
Or that you’re never quite achieving what you know in your heart of hearts you’re capable of.
Leaving you feeling constantly tired, disappointed, dissatisfied.
Like you’re somehow always failing.
That there’s always something more to do before you can allow yourself the luxury of working and living from your core. Because, let’s face it, who do you think you are to live life that way?
I get caught up in it all the time myself. Heck, it’s my story too. The stories I tell myself tend to go like this:
- If I achieve the financial targets I’ve set for myself this year, I can cut myself some slack and focus more on what I want to do.
- If this big client I’ve been talking to signs on to work with me, I’ll use the security of their income to work on creating more space for me.
- When I work my way through this latest e-course and have all my technology set up in the way the marketing gurus tell me, then I can take the time to do the creative stuff that really lights my fire.
And, to that last point, let’s face it: there’s always some shiny new tool coming along that promises us The Answer. Whether it’s a self-development program, a business course, or a smart piece of technology, there’s always another compelling magnet in our Facebook or LinkedIn stream promising us success.
The kind of success that puts to rest any insecurities and enables happiness, freedom and peace.
Which is kind of how we’ve been schooled to understand things: if things feel “off” inside, find the solution outside that’ll solve the problem.
Except, of course, things don’t work that way.
Because happiness, freedom and peace are inside jobs. They’re things you already have. You don’t have to strive to create them. No amount of stuff on the outside will give you them.
It may look that way for a while.
But it doesn’t.
I had this exact conversation with a client this week. He’s the CEO of a medium sized organization and, after a great performance this year, had expected his remuneration committee to be generous in the way it was going to compensate him. When the pay out was less than he’d wanted, he became dejected.
“They don’t value me,” he told me.
“Why is that important to you?” I asked him.
“Well, I want to feel good about myself,” he said. “We’ve got some tough results to achieve again next year and, having felt free to play all out this year, I now feel constrained again. What do I have to do to prove myself?”
We got specific about numbers.
“So, if they paid you £X more, you’d be happy?” I said.
“Yes,” he said. He was gearing up for a conversation with the chairman and, as things stood, set to act on the basis of his unhappy feelings.
“But aren’t you already happy?” I said.
He looked at me.
“Surely no amount of money can affect your happiness or your sense of freedom to act,” I went on, “because you already have these.”
I wasn’t sure that he had heard this as we went on to talk about other things. But after his meeting with the chairman he emailed me:
“We had a good meeting. I decided there was nothing that needed to be done on my comp. I realized after we’d spoken that you were right: I’m already happy. When I acted from that place, I ended up having a more forward-looking and upbeat conversation.”
Staying True to Yourself
The take away message here seems simple:
Tons of books and blogs will give you tips and techniques on how you can set your working life up in order to feel that you’re being true to yourself while being successful.
But most of them – well meaning as they are – will just give you another series of things to occupy your mind with and struggle against.
As if being you wasn’t already fundamentally guaranteed.
As if struggle needed to be part of the deal.
When all along the biggest win you can have is to see all of that for the illusion it is. And to understand that winning in business and being true to yourself were always one and the same thing.