Would you like an incredibly simple yet powerful tool for excelling as a leader and living a happier life?
Try focusing more of your energy on doing things that make life meaningful instead of on trying to make life more pleasant.
We could never make every moment of life pleasant. It’s an exercise in futility. No matter how hard we try, there will always be ups and downs, sickness, loss, old age, and death. Thus, from a logical standpoint, trying to make our lives more pleasant is not the best place to focus our energy.
Also, deep down, we know that pleasantness doesn’t result in greater happiness. We know that there are countless wealthy people, living the most pleasant lives we can imagine, who have to take medication to deal with the emptiness and depression they feel. In fact, there is now over ten years of research from the field of positive psychology demonstrating very clearly that our happiness has little to do with how pleasant our lives are.
But, we humans can easily becomes creatures of habit, conditioned by our surroundings to behave in certain ways. In our modern culture, we are bombarded with the idea that we’ll be happier if we have more stuff or make our lives more pleasant. As a result of this conditioning, it’s easy to start believing that it’s true.
Unfortunately, when we get caught in the trap of thinking that life will be better if we make it more pleasant, there are numerous negative ramifications.
One ramification is focusing too much on money at the expense of people. This can result in great short-term success, but never in long-term success. If we don’t care for our people – customers, vendors, and employees – our success will not be sustainable.
Focusing on pleasantness also results in avoiding tough conversations that we need to have. According to my friend, John Spence, one of the top executive trainers in the world, this is one of the biggest issues faced by businesses today. Many businesses simply aren’t talking about the things that are tough to discuss, but really important to the success of the business. Avoiding these conversations helps keep life pleasant in the short term. But, in the long term, the consequences of avoiding tough conversations are often detrimental.
Over time, focusing on making life pleasant in the short term results in leadership failures and dissatisfaction with our lives. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can gradually end the habit to seek out pleasantness and form the habit of creating a meaningful life.
If you want to excel as a leader and live a deeply meaningful and happy life, simply shift your focus to how you can better serve the people around you instead of how you can make your own life more pleasant.
The first step is to make a clear distinction between what we need in our lives, and what we simply want. I’ve found that the more I replace things and activities I simply want with efforts to be of greater service to those around me, the happier I have become and the more excited I am about waking up to start my day because it is filled with increasingly greater meaning.
Assuming that we’re taking care of our basic needs, we can start shifting our focus away from making life more pleasant to creating a life of meaning by asking this question every day, several times a day: What can I do to better serve the people around me?
If you try this for a month, I believe you’ll see a significant, positive shift in your life.