By Matthew Spooner
Identify what makes you happy in your professional and personal life, and you will be able to focus your efforts where it counts the most: on your passions.
That seems obvious, but many people become so overwhelmed with choices, they fail to focus on what really matters. And that can lead to disappointment. American psychologist Barry Schwartz remarks, “the more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.”
We do need to make choices every day. Often we are asked, “How have you been?” Many of us respond, “Busy.” How many of us though are progressing in meaningful ways because we are narrowing our choices on what makes us happy. Do not confuse action and progress.
When was the last time you took a step back and asked yourself:
Am I doing what I love? Am I pursuing my passion? Am I focusing on my strengths?
Every day at least once I allow time to reflect on my life and happiness.
I often meet university students and young professionals who are uncertain about what path to take in your life’s journey. Answers can emerge when you first ask yourself:
This question stimulates thought on what brings happiness and meaning to your life. Likely, you will start seeing personal strengths emerge in your responses.
For example, I love communicating with people and helping them improve themselves. Because this is one thing that makes me happy, I need to focus more of my time and efforts on finding opportunities to do this in my life. In both my professional and volunteer work I am doing this.
Let’s be honest, we all have weaknesses. We all have things that bore us because we lack interest in them. We need to do some things even though we may not enjoy them. However, we can identify activities that don’t interest us and assess whether we can stop doing them, outsource them, or minimize them.
Recently, I found my mind wandering as I worked away on preparing a report. Then, the thought came to mind that my colleague James could assist me on it. Not only did he assist me, but he spent less time than I would if I had done it. More importantly, he was satisfied with the result. In the end, James helped prepare a clearer template that I have been using since. It takes me less time to do what I need to do.
I’m a firm believer in mentorship. Find mentors who have rich experience in the type of work you enjoy and want to pursue. Listen attentively to their advice. Ask questions about their experience. Find out what kinds of skills and knowledge you need to advance in this field.
To get you started, how about asking:
How do you deal with challenging people or situations?
What is the best advice someone told you?
What is the best advice you can give me?
What is it that makes you successful?
How do you maintain your success?
Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson remarks, “Very many people go through their whole lives having no real sense of what their talents may be, or if they have any to speak of.”
Robinson’s The Element can help point us in the direction of where our natural talents meet our personal passion. When people arrive at “the element”, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels.
The path to nurturing our passions is life long and enriching. Why not spend more time doing just that? Empower yourself with greater happiness. Less choices –– greater happiness.
Watch Sir Ken Robinson on TED:
Co-founder and Managing Director, Crescendo Communications Consulting