“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Being an entrepreneur is a demanding profession. Having experienced the entrepreneurial world for my entire professional career, I’ve learned that achieving a work-life balance is often difficult to do. While some are able to achieve this balance easier than their peers, while others struggle with this balance and never achieve it.
Having seen numerous friends and acquaintances lose the fight for balance and ultimately end up with a disaster -- either in their business or personal life -- I thought it would be appropriate to lean on the advice of some of the wisest people I know -- both dead and alive -- to give you a cheat sheet to a happy life.
1. Enjoy the journey. As mentioned above, famed essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that you’re not in a race: Life doesn’t provide us with any drama in how it ends. And those that are obsessed with the end results are often blinded to the sheer wonder that is provided during the journey.
Don’t get too caught up in the daily grind. Make time to get out and enjoy the journey. A profit and loss statement will never be as fulfilling as a night of laughter with friends. Another board meetings will never provide you with the same joy as making your kids laugh or an hour playing with your dog in the park.
Yes, there are responsibilities you cannot always shirk. But if you were to give the same level of importance to your happiness as you do business, then you’d skip business meetings in order to avoid missing a social event, rather than the other way around.
2. You only get one life. Don’t live someone else’s dream. “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, and find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
--Henry David Thoreau
I’ve heard it a million times. “When I’m _____, I’ll be able to do _____.” Replacing the blanks with any number of terms -- millionaire, famous and stronger, along with retire, be happy and travel -- often sets you up for disappointment.
Regardless of what you’re waiting for, all you’re doing is renting the present out to your future.
Most of us will never achieve our "x." Does that mean your life is a failure? Far from it. The only failure can come from ignoring the present you live in to focus on the future you may never have.
Business people are more prone to this than others. Our world is based on projections and forecasts. And because of this, we end up delaying, postponing and ignoring our current happiness to achieve a perceived greater happiness in the future.
Todays are unlimited but tomorrows are a finite resource that quickly dwindle. So live in the todays.
3. The grass isn’t always greener. “Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough”
There’s a psychological term that every business person needs to learn: The Hedonic Treadmill. It’s the mind’s adaptation to new and shiny things, and its subsequent need for newer and shinier things.
No matter what you aspire to own, if you’re doing it for vanity, envy, status or some other reason related to self-fulfillment, you are in danger of hopping on the Hedonic Treadmill. Whatever you own, someone will always have something nicer. Even if the item isn’t in fact nicer, your mind will perceive it as nicer.
You will find that it’s difficult to be fulfilled by material possessions and will constantly be chasing the next high you get whenever you buy the newer, nicer thing. But sooner or later that high wears off, and you’re left running on a treadmill that’s now rolling too fast.
Don’t carry your happiness in possessions: They make for poor vessels.
4. Success is the result of failure. “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
--Thomas A. Edison
Wildly successful people aren’t great at success: They’re great at failure. They understand failure’s role in their journey to achieve success. The saddest story is that of the man who opines his failures and how they kept him from his success. To bring up Thomas Edison’s point, could that man’s success have simply been on the other side of his next failure?
Do not get discouraged. Your success is just around the corner from your last failure.
5. Keep reminding yourself. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Take Jobs's words to heart. There is nothing holding you back from achieving your business dreams as well as living a life of happiness. There’s nothing for you to lose, so follow your heart and enjoy the journey.
The key to change is remembering the impetus that set you on the path towards change. If you let that impetus fade from your mind, so too will your drive to achieve that change.