Today’s (performance orientated) society is inconceivable without the idea of “being successful”. As part of this society, we measure ourselves by whether we lead or have led a successful life, whether we are successful at work, whether we have realised our dreams or whether we have asserted ourselves in living together with other people.
For me, two essential questions arise at this point:
- Is this success orientation good for us at all?
- And if the pursuit of success is supposed to be an essential part of our lives, what is it that actually determines our success?
We Need A Sense Of Achievement In Order To Stay Mentally Healthy
It is undeniable that it is also important for adults to be successful. The positive feeling of having achieved something, i.e. of having been successful, motivates us, gives us energy and helps us to get over the next failure. This knowledge of one’s own self-efficacy is a pillar for a healthy self-esteem. And well, unrestricted self-esteem is already a very basic quality for a happy, peaceful, psychologically healthy life.
In principle, one is therefore well advised to look for a sense of achievement. The resulting positive feeling is a solid basis for making good decisions and for taking other people with you. A regular dose of “success” should include your own professional and private environment.
The only danger is that the pursuit of success can also become an addiction. We then permanently need that kick of having made a difference. Every tick in the to-do list does good, I actively look for tasks that I can do safely in order to get something from the drug “success” again. And I feel uncomfortable when there are no check marks.
In Arjuna Ardagh’s Radical Brilliance Cycle, which arranges different states of our consciousness on the dial of a watch, this is called “6 o’clock addiction”. 6 o’clock there is the state of working off. And indeed, it can be very difficult to leave this state: there are still too many things to be done; it feels so good to be in “doing”…
So, If I Manage To Have A Regular Sense Of Achievement Without Being Addicted To It, Will I Be Able To Lead A Successful Life?
That would be a good step. But I believe that the question of what constitutes a successful life is measured elsewhere. There is the balance sheet that you take at the end of your professional career or the really big balance sheet at the end of your own life. Since nothing can be changed once the balance sheet is drawn up, it makes perfect sense to ask yourself today what the balance sheet will look like and what it might look like.
The Speech At Your Own Funeral Grounds And Gives Orientation Back
A very helpful exercise is writing the speech for your own funeral service. Not very pleasant, I admit. But a wonderful exercise to take stock and to refocus. Nothing better than to look at the result of your own life and raise it up. Suddenly you realize (once again) that you only have this one life and that you are therefore well advised to think carefully about what to make of it. Suddenly your own dreams or goals that you have set yourself at some point reappear and you can orientate yourself where you have arrived on your own path. From this interim balance you can then make adjustments. The well-worn, often very short-term oriented, own focus of success is extended by the remaining lifetime.
If I try to find the inner voice, I will find out what makes my life a real success.
The first time I did the exercise of the speech for the funeral service myself, someone inside me came up.
That “someone” I heard say:
- 100 successful projects cannot replace an intact family!
- Even 100 successful projects do not make you really happy!
- 100 successful projects are great, but the 101st project could destroy all this success again!
- Was this all really your idea?
And there were many other questions I was asked. My inner voice had managed to penetrate. Only with these nasty questions, not really with new ideas yet. Listening to them is something that requires a lot of practice and for which we (at least in our professional life) have not been trained. The inner voice is also annoying in everyday work life. It would, if it was given space, come between us and the task at hand and possibly ask a lot of nasty questions. And that is why we all have to learn to listen to it again. It takes time and persistence. A rewarding task for Committed Leaders.
A Letter To My Grandchildren Makes The Inner Voice Heard
A very helpful exercise in hearing the inner voice in relation to your life planning is the letter to your grandchildren, which you can write either as a letter or as an audio message. If you do not have children, address your message to the generation of your grandchildren, if you had children.
Take enough time (90 minutes should be enough) and find a place where you are absolutely undisturbed. Set your phone to flight mode. The best thing is to go out into nature. You should use the first 45 – 60 minutes to “come down”. Listen to your breath, to the sounds around you. Try to perceive the silence of the room and absorb the great power that emanates from it. When you are in nature, look at the trees, the flowers, the clouds in the sky. Listen to the chirping of the birds, the waves of the water and the wind.
When thoughts come up, just let them go. For this exercise you are the sky and all thoughts are the clouds passing by. Small clouds just like thunderclouds. Let them go. No one can harm you, because you are the sky.
And when you are completely at home, you can start. Write what you want to say to your children and grandchildren on a piece of paper or dictate to your mobile phone. What you want to explain to them. But also what you want to leave them as a footprint in the world. Do not stop. Write or talk for at least 15 minutes. Do not try to structure your text in any way. It’s all about letting your inner voice speak. And it is rarely deliberate or structured.
When you are finished, enjoy, be proud of yourself. Because that, that was a big step towards a really successful life.
For experts of management literature: With his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the American author Steven R. Covey has created a basic work for the self-management of executives, which has now been sold more than 30 million times and translated into 38 languages. Path 2 of the 7 Ways he postulated is “Having the end in mind at the beginning.” What Covey means by this is that you should plan your life in such a way that you always keep in mind that you will only have a limited amount of time to live and that you therefore orientate your actions according to what you really want to have achieved at the end of your life. As an exercise for this he also recommends writing the speech for your own funeral service. This book was first published in 1989. In 2004, 15 years later, Covey added an eighth path, “Listening to the inner voice”, to the seven paths. He realized how important this inner voice is and how difficult it is to listen to it.