My last post of the year focuses on how to feel greater personal accomplishment in a way that can also profoundly and positively affect the life of everyone around you.

We consider success the achievement of certain goals.  Those goals vary, but society tends to assess our success based on financial goals.  These are gauged by the trappings such as the location and size of our house, the kind of car we drive, the clothes we wear, the look of our office, even the type of people we hang out with.

If you ask most people what they are working so hard to achieve, they will tell you it is for the health and happiness of themselves and their family.  Yet there is ample evidence to suggest that the happiest people on earth tend to be those with less money.  And if we believe there is even an element of truth to that research, then it leaves us in a difficult spot.  We’re aren’t going to give away the life we’ve built and live in poverty in the hopes that we get happier.  But in almost twenty years of coaching professionals and hearing their honest opinions, it is clear to me that many professionals are basically unhappy or at least dissatisfied with the way their life is going.  This dissatisfaction can escalate to failed relationships (with spouses and children); addiction; health issues, etc.   In other words, due to the way they are living and working, professionals seem to be losing their grip on the very things they are working so hard to protect.  So the question is: what is realistically within our power to change?

When a smart business person finds that they can’t win by the rules of the game, they change the rules.  You don’t have to be on the same gerbil wheel as everyone else.  You can decide how you want to live your life, run your practice, maintain your relationships and act as a human being.   Start by letting go of everyone else’s belief systems about success and create your own definition.  Think hard about what you really want out of life, what you enjoy, how you behave when you truly feel your best, and what you want to be remembered for.  Create some goals around that person, not the one that others think you should be.  Then draft a plan that focuses on helping you to find and support the real you.  As you are doing that, here are some things to think about:

Mastery: Professionals generally want to feel mastery within their discipline.  In other words, they want to be a strong or great lawyer, accountant, engineer, etc.   They often fool themselves into believing that this mastery will be achieved through ego…if I convince everyone I’m great, they will believe it and then I will be great.  But that’s not how it works.  True mastery is much more introspective and quiet.  When we’re there, we know it.  We don’t need to shout it out.  We’re more likely to use what we know and can do to help others.  Mastery is not an event: it is a feeling of quiet, strong confidence.   Focus is inward, not outward. Any external recognition is simply a reflection of what we have already achieved on the inside.   Knowing this, how might you change your pathway to mastery?

Holistic Strength and Balance: Professionals often sacrifice other areas of their life (e.g. relationships, personal health) for increased strength in their profession.  This is a short-term solution that inevitably leads to the downfall of those others areas of their life, and in time, the downfall of their professional life.   We are holistic entities: in order to be consistently strong in any one area of your life, you need to be strong in all areas of your life.   Pay more attention to your relationships, your health and fitness, your need for down time, your spirituality.  Everything counts.

Compassion:  It’s no coincidence that the most brilliant and accomplished professionals I’ve met have also been the best mentors and teachers.  Accomplishment is not achieved through fighting and overcoming everyone around you.  Accomplishment is the result of being the most positively influential to those around you.  And this requires a tremendous amount of compassion while you pursue mastery.   But many professionals are taught to stifle their feelings of compassion as it may cause weakness in their advice.  I fundamentally disagree.    When we force ourselves into the “battle” sections of our brain (the reticular and limbic systems), we are incapable of insight and creative thought process.   But compassion helps us gain access to the largest and most powerful area of our brain, the cerebral cortex.  There, we can truly seek to understand all perspectives and possibilities, and therefore come up with far better solutions.   In this way, compassion actually helps us to become much better professionals.

Frustration with your career may serve as the appropriate catalyst for you to rethink your definition of success and recalibrate your pathway to getting there.  But if that’s not enough of a motivator, consider this: taking this step doesn’t just help you.

When we decide that we want to pursue life with mastery, balance and compassion, we don’t just affect our own lives. We positively and profoundly affect the lives of everyone around us, just like a stone thrown in the water can create a series of powerful and far reaching ripples.   Your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, your co-workers – all will be affected by your decision and your actions.  Some of these reverberations may even be noticeable to you: you may see your mentee positively mentoring others; or your child exhibiting respectful leadership skills on the soccer field.   The beauty of this kind of work is that it is so far reaching; its positive benefits will take effect far beyond what you believed to be your personal reach.

For the New Year, decide that you will try living your life (and your career) differently.  Be the stone that has the courage to try a different way to make waves; cause the ripple that will extend your definition of success to one of positive influence and far reaching reverberations.