A couple of weeks ago, I read the post “Why you need more margin in your life" by Sean Johnson. Since then, the post has stuck with me. It’s really hit home as I’ve been taking more time to step back, reflect and set new goals verses hacking away at some of the more tactical things I have going on day-to-day.
Sean writes, “They [some wildly ‘successful’ people] cram their schedules so full of activities and busyness that their emotional, physical and spiritual health suffers. The pace of their lives is unnatural and ignores the toll it takes on their bodies and minds. They convince themselves their unrelenting schedule is a badge of honor to be proud of. They think wise management of energy doesn’t apply to them.”
Everything that Sean mentioned above lends to the question: If your lifestyle is harming you physically, taking a toll on your relationships and affecting your happiness, is success really worth it? Is that what we call success? Sean, Amber Rae, who originally shared the post and writes about this often, and I all agree that it’s not.
In the past, I’ve planned my days based on what I thought would bring me the most return of investment in terms of success. So, if I were trying to decide between getting my workout in or checking one more thing off of my work to-do list, I’d almost always choose the latter. I was counting on the fact that spending a bit more time on work would yield a very specific return on my investment— success or recognition.
I constantly found myself legitimizing that spending time on work over doing something personal for myself would yield a bigger return. I don’t know about you, but when I’m working for a company, it’s great to show ROI, but I like to think about what I bring to the table in terms of overall value. We can’t just think of immediate returns— especially when real ROI, the most effective and sustainable kind, comes from long-term strategies that may not yield for months or even years. We need to take this same mindset and translate it to life too. We have to bring more overall value into our own lives instead of a working for hopeful returns on investment from our bosses and jobs.
This leads me to a change in perspective that I think can make a positive impact on life: Don’t focus on what other people could or will maybe you, but focus on providing distinct and sustainable happiness to yourself. Your only obligation in this life should be creating the life that makes you your best.
This can mean a number of things. Sean points out some great areas to focus on, and I’d like to expand upon his list with some things I’ve found make me a better, happier person. Here are 5 things that you can immediately control for your own return on investment, your happiness and well being.
1. Dictate Your Own Work Environment
When I started working remotely I found that having the option of choosing my own environment every day was one of the best things that I could do for myself, my productivity and the quality of my work. Based on how I’m feeling on any given day, I can set myself up for success. If I need quiet, focused work with absolutely no interruptions I can setup in my home office. If I’m looking to collaborate with people who inspire me, I can spend the day at one of New York’s many co-working spaces. And, depending on other moods, I can pick one of my favorite cafes that range from loud and fun to quiet and thought provoking. [Working remotely will give you the full scoop on where to work in NYC.]
2. Travel, Explore, Experience
Travel is important on so many levels. To me it means growth, creativity and spirituality. Anytime I’ve found myself in a job or situation that doesn’t support on-going travel, I’ve decided to move on. It’s an aspect of life that’s non-negotiable for me. This varies for everyone, but even if you’re happy planting your feet in one place for extended periods of time be sure to take time to explore. I find that by physically getting out of my comfort zone, I become more connected to who I really am.
3. Celebrate Victories, Even the Smallest Ones
I see myself and others hack away, do our best, and when we aren’t getting the most incredible results we feel down about ourselves. Like Sean mentioned, with our connected world and things like social media, it’s extremely visible to see people who are getting the results that we want. Often times, we see others reaching heights that we haven’t even imagined yet— and, it’s front in center— rolling by in our Twitter stream, showing up in our Facebook newsfeed or even popping up our inbox. So, I think it’s really important to celebrate all of your victories. What’s hard work if you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor (even if they’re sour). Be proud when you succeed or even when you fail but tried really damn hard. The most important person to make proud is yourself.
4. Read Fiction
Any time I feel like I need to get my head back into the clouds and out of my tactical day-to-day, I pick up a book. Not a business book, (even though I’m basically obsessed with productivity books), nothing can give you a break and stimulate your mind at the same time like a great piece of fiction. It’s also the next best thing to traveling— books allow us to explore any place during any time period. [A book that I like to keep on-hand is my favorite, The Little Prince. When life gets too serious, The Little Prince reminds me to take a step back.]
5. Hold Up Your End of The Deal When It Comes to Commitments, Especially Commitments to Yourself
Live up to commitments to yourself as much as or more than the ones you make to others. How can you deliver for someone else if you can’t deliver for yourself? My friend Jason said, “the way you live up to commitments to other people is really through yourself.”
Have trouble keeping track of your personal agenda? Amber Rae has a great organizational method, weekly planning. I use this map to schedule my work priorities, personal goals and fitness (Amber does work / fit / play). You can see more on the method here. I’m also in love with setting personal goals, or dreams, on Everest. (The team is pretty awesome and inspirational too.)
Whatever tools you need to use, changes you need to make or new perspectives you need to adopt, make building margin the most important thing in your life. No one else is in charge of your happiness. It’s all you.
Posted on Tuesday, February 5th 2013