Most of my CEO executive coaching clients have detailed, measurable goals. We use them as navigational aids, comparing interim results with plans and expectations, to help the client make adjustments to their attitudes and activity. I was in the midst of one such review when the client took the conversation in a novel and fruitful direction.
I asked, “Have you looked into that club for sharing exotic sports cars we discussed?”
“I’ve been thinking about that, ” he responded. “Why do all my goals have to be for things I don’t have?”
Give yourself a moment to consider that profound question.
Engaging that question exposes1 an invisible assumption2 that, if left concealed and unexamined, controls our activity and determines the quality of our experience.
This assumption can be articulated several ways:
- Whatever I have is not enough.
- There is something I do not have that, if possessed, will make enough.
- Not this but certainly that.
- It is always about the getting of some thing.
What if the assumption is wrong?
“That is a great question,” I replied. “Why not have as your goal, ‘Enjoy what you have. Be happy now.'”
My client talked about how much he enjoyed the car he owns. Certainly, the car had defects and things he would change. There are also downsides to driving a Ferrari: jealousy, fear of loss and damage, attracting speeding tickets, etc.
Here are one CEO’s new goals:
- Engaging with his children,
- Enjoying the process of running his business, and
- Being present to the joy of driving the car he has.
See also, An old wisdom tale.
1 unconceals, in executive coaching jargon
2 more coach jargon: an always/already listening)
Very insightful. I often remind myself of the fact that we tend to compare ourselves with those who have “more” than us. We seldom compare ourselves with those who have “less” than us and be grateful for having “more” than most others.
So true. “We see things not as they really are…but as we are” the Talmud
Tony points to an aspect of living a fulfilled life that I am learning to practice, in order to make it a habit. A way for me to immediately experience happiness is to instantly pivot and look for what I appreciate now, in this moment. And what else I appreciate, and what else…. Very powerful practice for me. Tony, you are a great teacher and mentor. Thank you.
It seems to me an important question is:
What is driving the goal? That is to say, even ‘enjoying what you have’ can be corrupted by fear of it being the ‘right thing to do’ — or may be the grounding influence of true appreciation.
Similarly — saving the trees, feeding the children or other worthy goals can also be corrupted with a fearful tenor as well.
It is as useful to strive as it is to enjoy what we have — and finding an appropriate balance for each person/stage of life is important. That said, what really matters is awareness of what is driving us, and in this we will find ourselves being of service or detracting from our purpose.
The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have!
It’s heartening how widespread this appreciation for living simply and in the moment’s become. With the cover of living a “green” lifestyle, it’s now easy for people to admit they prefer to want less, consume less, and enjoy family more. It’s the beat generation again.