I was thinking recently about all the leaders and managers I have known who have achieved a good measure of success in their chosen vocation, but who seem to lack a sense of achievement and happiness that should rightly be theirs.
The late Viktor Frankl addressed the issue in his book, Mans Search for Meaning. As a Holocaust survivor, he had spent a considerable amount of time pondering why some people who have achieved success fail to find happiness in that success.
He wrote that its possible to have both success and happiness, if you have a sense of meaning and purpose.
As a regular speaker on the subject, I constantly hear of distractions that can crop up, even in the lives of successful people, when they lack this sense of purpose. One fellow told me that he had reached all the financial goals he had set for himself when he left college. He felt he had done everything he set out to do.
To him, the sole justification for his existence had become the achievement of those objectives. Nothing else mattered. What makes this so disturbing is that he is only 36 years old. His success has only brought him unhappiness and uncertainty and two divorces.
Most of us, when things are going well, dont invest much time thinking about the direction our lives have taken. We are perfectly content to go with the flow, to ride the current of whatever momentum we have established.
It seems that thoughts of lifes meaning and purpose most often emerge only during times of confusion and uncertainty. Or perhaps following a deep emotional experience, such as the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, the break-up of an important relationship or when you begin to realize you are getting older. For most of us, these are the times when we begin to have thoughts about the meaning and purpose of life.
I believe one of the keys to resolving some of these concerns lies in a quote from one of my favorite writers, Richard Bach, who said in his book, Illusions, Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. We are all learners, doers, teachers.
I would add to Bachs quotation a personal observation: When you are teaching, you begin to realize how much you can learn from your students. Thus, the entire process becomes cyclical, an unending stream of growth, sharing and then more growth.
A near-perfect form of give-and-take is beneficial to all parties. When applied to each aspect of life, you will begin to grasp more of the true essence of life itself. You will begin to recognize not only important elements of your own self worth, but also how your personal piece of the puzzle fits into the big picture.
The realization that you are connected to your purpose, or at least making progress toward a connection, can give you a whole new perspective. It can make what might otherwise seem a drab existence fairly sing with excitement and anticipation.
You will begin to realize that you are much more than next months sales or next quarters net earnings. And when you do achieve these rather minor milestones, you will realize they are mere stepping stones to the real prize the realization of you.
William Armstrong, a management consultant for 30 years, is president of Pittsburgh-based management consulting firm Armstrong/Associates. Reach him at (412) 276-7396 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.