Every since I was a child I wanted to be successful, fulfilled and happy. I wanted all three and did not want to compromise.
Early in my career I thought that the only way to be happy was to be successful and do my work to a high standard. My approach to being more successful was to aim for excellence in the important things that matter. How could I excel in my field?
I had two ways to getting closer to this goal. I knew that excellence was something to strive for and no matter how good I become there is always a higher level.Yet the struggle for excellence seemed to be noble and worthwhile goal. I put mu heart and soul into being excellent in a few selected things. My strategy was simple and two pronged.
- Find a role model who is the best in the field and someone I would like to be like. For example, in boxing many young aspiring boxers want to be like Muhammed Ali. So they emulate his style, copy his training routine and watch films of his fights in the hope that they can be the next “the greatest”. I found role models in academia that I wanted to be like and tried to learn from them and work at developing my abilities.
- By watching and studying my role models I analysed the components of their skill and practice that made them the best in the field. Once I had identified the key areas in which I wanted to develop competence I scheduled regular practice into my routine. Each session had well defined standards and goals I wanted to achieve.
This approach enabled me enjoy a degree of success. Once I achieved I set another goal. I was happy for a while when I achieved a goal but immediately I set another one. I felt I needed to consistently focus on my goals so I spent all my time worrying that I was not at the standard that I wanted to achieve. Even though I had a degree of success people envied I was unhappy, dissatisfied and stressed. I resisted the temptation to relax because I thought that the key to success was focusing and worrying about my goals constantly.
As I become more successful, I wanted to achieve more and more and I became addicted to doing things well and being successful I felt that this was the purpose of my life so I set more and more goals. I worked longer and longer and harder and harder, My wife and children are wonderful and they always supported me. They made whatever sacrifice they had to support my ambitions. I didn’t spend much time with them. For many years I was blind to their emotional needs to be with me and for us to be together. In 30 years we never went on holiday together because I was always working. When I had Christmas or summer holidays I viewed these as uninterrupted periods in which I could focus more intensely on my work.
Having too many goals and ambitions made my life complicated, stressed and not very enjoyable. On one level I was happy with my achievement but did not feel fulfilled or really happy. I felt the need to reduce my commitments to success. I decided to make my life as simple as I could and reduce the number of goals I had and the number of people I was responding to via email and phone. I did an analysis and I was in regular contact with several hundred people from all over the world who wanted something from me. If I worked all the day answering emails then I had more emails by the end of the day which created more urgency and greater stress. In desperation I analysed my emails from the perspective of how resulted in productive output for me or my contact. Out over 1000 people in my contacts only 5 people had any impact on my goals. Perhaps I also only helped tangible 5 people on my list. Less than 0.01% of my emails yielded any benefits. A startling revelation. I realised I was doing a great dis service to those people with I was productive. I decided to give priority to these people and massively reduced my commitments to the other 99.99%. My work load reduce massively and my output increased massively.
Having less to do and focusing sensible on the most important gave me clarity in my work and renewed energy and enthusiasm which simultaneously increased the quality of my work. I decided to focus on less as a rule. My emails reduce in number and in length. I decided 3-5 lines would be my optimum in emails. I did the same thing with other aspects my life and simplified everything. This gave more time with my family without sacrificing any aspects of my work.
As I get older I have become more selfish and want to have more fun. For anything I am going to do I decided to ask myself. How can I get this done in an excellent way and in a simple manner and have as much fun as possible? When I answer this question then I know that I’ll be having fun doing something worthwhile and important.
My formula for success and happiness is:
SH = E x C x F
SH – success and happiness; E – excellence and F – Fun.