Why finding happiness depends on reaching out

Since the beginning of time, as far as we know, what people really want in life is to be happy. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the workplace or at home, the desire remains the same. Aristotle wrote about the pursuit of happiness as a central purpose in human life and a goal: “Happiness depends on ourselves.”

In my experience, I have learned that if you figure out what people really want — and you do this by asking probing questions and listening — you can help them achieve what they desire. By finding out what they want rather than pushing them toward what you want, you’ll gain their influence and they’ll be more likely to participate, to help, to join the team, to forward the company’s success and so on. If you help others get what they want, you’ll get what you want.

As a leader, this approach is critical to ensuring your team is motivated and believes in you and your organization’s mission. By engendering trust through finding out what they want — and in turn, what motivates them — you’ll find it easier to move your organization through whatever twists and turns you face.

So what do people really want?

Aristotle is right: happiness. And I have found that related to this, there are five other things that most people want.

Happiness — People want to love and be loved.

Contribution — People want to make a difference. They want to contribute, to provide their input and to be a part of the process.

Significance — People want to be important to their families and children, to their communities and the industries they serve. They want to be valued.

Certainty — People fear the unknown. Why do so many people fear death? Because it’s unknown. We want a sense of certainty and security in our lives. This gives us confidence.

Growth — People want to build, improve, move ahead and continue evolving their relationships, careers and every aspect of their lives.

Variety — While we fear the unknown, we grow stagnant if life is too routine. We need to be stimulated, challenged and to have variety in our professional and personal lives.

As you work toward goals in business and in life, consider how you can help others achieve what they want. How can you help them find happiness, make a contribution, feel significant, have certainty, grow and experience variety?

Remember, it’s important to bring others along with you as you seek and find these desired states of being. As you find fulfillment in your own life, help fulfill the lives of others. It will come back to you more times than you can imagine.

Umberto P. Fedeli is CEO at The Fedeli Group