Wanted: A life of fulfillment, adventure, and satisfaction.
Imagine posting an ad for your ideal life to the classifieds; what would the life description say? What does your ideal life look like? If you were designing your ideal life, how would you construct it? What would you fill your time within your ideal life? Who would you surround yourself with?
It’s an interesting and thought-provoking activity for most of us. This question, “How would you describe your ideal life?” is one we pose in many of our seminars and classes.
When seeking your ideal life, there are two sides to ponder. First, what does that life look like? Think of your classified ad. How do you describe your best life?
For most of us, we wouldn’t design our life to include 2-3 hours of looking at our phones. It probably wouldn’t include the time we spend surfing the web, over-eating, shopping for items we don’t need, or many of the other activities that eat up our time.
We refer to these time-wasters as soft addictions: the activities we seek to fill our time, zone us out, and avoid the activities that truly nourish and sustain us. These soft addictions are often a very big part of our day-to-day lives, but yet, we certainly wouldn’t include most of them when we imagine our ideal life.
No, for most of us, our ideal life would include fulfilling activities, adventure, play, and joy. We would imagine ourselves as active participants in our ideal life—engaging with our friends and family, experiencing great conversation, and building stronger connections.
Perhaps you think of your ideal life as it pertains to your career. What does your ideal job description look like? Does it include 8-10 hours a day engaging in mediocre activities we don’t find stimulating or exciting?
No! Of course not. Your ideal day probably includes work that is meaningful and fulfilling. You probably imagine yourself doing a job that’s deeply satisfying. You imagine a career that you excel at, that also brings you happiness.
On the second side of the ideal life description is another question to explore. If you were hiring for this ideal life you’ve just described, would you be the right candidate to fill the position?
Many of us have a vision of our life that we follow. We have an idea of what our life should look like—how we want it to be structured. Yet, when we picture that ideal life, how do we fit in? Are we able to carry out that vision based on who we are right now? Do your values align with your actions?
We worked with an international pharmaceutical firm a few years back, where this question was posited to the participants. The firm was seeing a lot of success at the high-performing c-level, but not company-wide success or satisfaction. They didn’t want to focus on the gaps between the levels of performance. They didn’t want to discuss the value gap. We adjusted the seminars, took them down a notch. Yet, still, they were still uncomfortable with this idea of fulfillment. They didn’t want to be confronted with themselves.
Even big Fortune 500 companies struggle with the question of what brings their employees fulfillment. In the Venn diagram of what’s ideal for the company and what’s ideal for the employee’s life, where is the overlap? How do they invest in what they want their employees to become?
It’s a tough question across the board. For many of us, when we really ponder this question, we might be surprised and even dismayed by the answer. Like the saying, “you should dress for your next promotion,” you should also be living for your next, greater version of your life.
To continue with the metaphor, imagine an intern on their first day of work. If they show up in a suit, looking polished and put together, it sends a message to their boss (and the rest of the office). “Notice me! I’m someone who cares about my performance. I pay attention to details. I’m ready to put in the effort!”
As a result, that intern often stands out and gets noticed (provided their performance does indeed match their polished appearance). They’re positioning themselves for a job offer and for the job they want, not the job they have.
Similarly, when we envision our ideal life, how are we positioning ourselves for the next steps? Are we learning and growing? Are we getting out there, engaging with others, and really jumping in? Do we avoid conflict and downplay our feelings? Do we see life as a playground where mistakes are simply opportunities for more learning? Are we mindful, present, and engaged in life, or are we living on the sidelines? Are we working to become our next, best self?
These can be tough questions to explore. Yet, if we really want to be the right candidate for our ideal life, we need to groom ourselves up to the right standards. We need to start living our lives in the way that’s intentional and deliberate. Our interactions and activities should be pushing us forward—toward the next hill, over, and beyond.
I’ve been living intentionally and working toward my vision for years. Really, since an early age. Most of the world begins compromising. Most of the world is fixated on making the “right” decisions and following the “right” solutions.
In truth, the right solutions are actually B.S. There’s no right degree, right job, right relationship. The things many people think they want (or are supposed to want) aren’t the activities and decisions that will truly bring them satisfaction. There’s no formula for the perfect “ideal life.” What’s ideal for me might not be ideal for you, and that’s totally okay.
The only universal truth to an ideal life is that it brings YOU fulfillment. Your ideal life should satisfy your deepest yearnings.
I see many people who have a broken “wanter.” They imagine that as they go down the list, checking off the items they wanted to do, they will discover satisfaction. Yet, they aren’t really living the life they want to live. They may have achieved a magical solution—like having the right career to retire early, enough money to travel around the world, or an attractive partner to spend their time with. But hey still aren’t living the life they want.
One client I was working with recently couldn’t ascertain why he wasn’t pulling the trigger on his next big money-making acquisition. He knew it would make him serious money.
When we discussed the issues, he started to tell me how he has three grown children that won’t talk to him. He didn’t know why. He gave them everything that money could buy. He had been raised poor and swore his kids wouldn’t have to live the life of struggle that he had grown up with. Yet, the kids weren’t happy. He wasn’t connecting with others in his life either. He was lacking in relationships and close friends. He was wheeling and dealing in his business, but it wasn’t bringing him fulfillment in his life.
After a great deal of discussion, he decided against the acquisition. He didn’t want another business to turn around. Instead, he took an adjunct position teaching business to students. He began building the business he wanted to run. Even though it was less lucrative, he discovered more fulfillment. He started working on his relationships and engaging in some tough discussions with his adult children, realizing there were many actions and inactions in his life he needed to resolve. His values needed a shift.
Most people aren’t living to their higher values.
So, if you were designing your life from scratch, how would it be different? Would your body and health be different? Would you have different relationships? Would you make different career choices?
This isn’t an easy task. It means soul searching and taking a long, hard look at your current values. It means measuring your friendships and relationships against those values. If you’re ready to get “hired” for your ideal life, become the best candidate.
For more ways to get the life you want, visit the Wright Foundation website. Join us for an upcoming Foundations weekend, where we’ll explore these topics in-depth and help you build connections with others who are seeking to maximize their potential. We also want to announce the availability of many of our courses for download. Don’t miss out on the special introductory price for many of our courses and lectures.
Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.