How to Realistically Succeed and Be Happy (Part 1)

“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”  -Walt Disney

What does success mean? If you ask ten people, you get ten different answers. How about happiness? Same thing. Success and happiness are ideas. Like all ideas, these definitions lie in the mind of the definer. Unfortunately, most people chase other people’s opinions of success and happiness, which is why few actually realize them.

Your life is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. In the beginning, you are one of many puzzle pieces tossed randomly in the box. You realize success and happiness when you locate your perfect fit in the completed puzzle.  

Your life and career are in your hands. You can’t enjoy healthy relationships if you are unhappy. It’s challenging to create a rewarding career or build a thriving business if you work half-heartedly. 

Beyond your success and happiness, you are an essential piece of the whole picture. Without you, the puzzle can never be complete. Since you have finite reserves of time and energy as a human being, every moment counts if you want to uncover your perfect fit.

Disney admits that life is a complicated matter. So is a 42,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. In this three-part newsletter over the coming weeks, I will simplify the enormous task of creating success and happiness:

Know yourself better than you know anything else.

How do you climb out of the mound of random puzzle pieces to find your perfect fit?

Get to know your shape. The more self-aware you become, you begin to differentiate yourself from others. As you become more familiar with what makes you distinctive, you learn how you might fit in here and there. Then piece by piece, you try a lot of configurations. With trial and error, you gain clarity and wisdom.

If you are a perfectionist or fear failure, this can be unnerving. Rarely, if ever, does a puzzle piece find its perfect fit on the first or even second try. However, you can make the whole task more manageable with the simple act of sorting.

When I work on a puzzle, I first sort all the end pieces. Then I sort all the puzzle pieces with a similar color or design. I further sort each group by any other qualities until I end up with groups of similar puzzle pieces that make it easier to find their rightful place.

Sort your choices.

Start finding your perfect fit by figuring out what role you like to play. There are all types of functions that people can fulfill. Some people are innovators and leaders; others are gatekeepers and protectors; some are warriors, messengers, teachers or nurturers. Look at the times in your life when you felt most comfortable and natural. What role were you playing?

Don’t fret if you find yourself in the wrong role. It’s better to find a way to transition than to keep jamming your puzzle piece into a spot that requires an entirely different shape. Think about the lawyer who decided to become a writer (John Grisham), the computer science geek who became an entrepreneur (Jeff Bezos), the professional carpenter who became an actor (Harrison Ford) or the figure skater who became a bridal designer (Vera Wang).

Once you have sorted out what type of role you like to play, consider the qualities and skills that come easy and feel good. Are you a natural conversationalist? A quick number cruncher? An idea person? Make a list of what you do well and enjoy doing. Take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate your unique combination of qualities and talents. 

Now that you have pinpointed what you are good at and enjoy doing think about the type of lifestyle you enjoy. Fast-paced? Adventurous? Independent? Secure and stable? Community-minded? Family-oriented? The right lifestyle is energizing. The wrong one is draining.

See the emerging picture. 

As you start to sort these different aspects of yourself, a picture should begin to emerge of how they can fit together and add value to the world in a way that feels good. This clarity can be tremendously empowering. It can also be uncomfortable if what you discover doesn’t fit your current ideas of success and happiness. If this is the case, try not to resist. Those erroneous concepts are getting in the way of your ultimate fulfillment.

Self-awareness and authenticity, being true to the best parts of yourself, are the first steps towards achieving a realistic experience of success and happiness. I find most people overestimate what will make them feel accomplished and satisfied. They are too busy trying to fit themselves into someone else’s space. Pay more attention to yourself. Realize what is unique and valuable about you. In the process, you will gain confidence, perspective and self-appreciation. 

When you find your perfect fit, you will succeed and be happy. For real.

Actionable tips: Here are some additional questions to create more self-awareness:

  1. How might your current ideas of success and happiness be driven by wanting to make up for past failures and inadequacies?
  2. How much more joyful would it be to create success and happiness based on the unique value that only you can give?
  3. How much energy and focus are you wasting on skills and activities that you are not good at, don’t enjoy and have no interest in developing? How could you otherwise use that focus and energy more productively?

Look for Part 2 coming next Wednesday-Define success and happiness as a state of mind, not a destination.

Thanks for reading. Until next week,

 Jo-Aynne von Born, Certified Professional Coach

 (Adapted from my Authentic Success newsletter. If you would like to have it delivered to your inbox free every Wednesday, please subcribe here.

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