"If you and I are to discover the heart and soul of success it may be wise not just to consider the ‘now’ but try to imagine life some years down the road, take a look back and try to answer the question: What will matter to me then?"
Rob Parsons, The Heart of Success
Living in a country with a high standard of living understandably translates to high expectations, ambition and, yes, stress. For the working adult, this usually means keeping a laser-like focus on career; proving yourself at work, pushing for the next promotion and climbing the corporate ladder (hopefully faster than your peers). In this hectic and highly competitive working environment, there is a danger of falling into a rut – where you end up chasing personal immediate gains but sacrifice achieving true significance in the long run.
Consider how we measure success... Often, success is defined by financial achievement – many Singaporeans still aspire to the 5Cs of cash, credit cards, condominiums, cars and country clubs. While there is nothing wrong with acquiring material wealth, it is important to identify for yourself, 'how much money is enough?' Setting reasonable financial goals ensures that you put in the proportionate amount of effort required to achieve these, and still have sufficient mind space to devote to making a true difference to the lives of those around you. One mid-level employee shared that writing down her specific financial goals enabled her to calculate how much she would need to currently earn. This resulted in her upgrading herself to earn a promotion, and with greater peace of mind, she was less harried at work and became a better team player who was more willing to help her colleagues when needed.
We must recognize that there are many other indicators of personal success. Personal integrity, strength of character, establishing and pursuing enriching relationships with family and friends, and giving back to community with your talent, time and effort are also critical to making a significant impact in your lifetime. Ask yourself how much time, effort and money are you investing in each of these areas?
The Starting Point
Achieving true significance requires a personal vision. While many of us set tasks to do at work, very rarely do we see someone who articulates a vision of who they want to be. Having a clear vision statement will help you keep steady as you navigate the course of your career through its highs and lows. Be guided by your values, and set your sights on your end goal rather than being reactionary to unexpected events. These are some questions that can guide you in setting your own vision:
- What are the top 5 values that you cherish and hold closest to your heart?
- What are the top 5 things that you greatly enjoy doing?
- What are the top 3 things you must you do regularly at work to make your work meaningful?
Once you have your vision statement in place, share it with a few trusted friends and mentors who can offer insight and advice on how to achieve it, as well as help to keep you accountable along your career journey.
Take the Long View
Achieving significance in your work and personal life is a long journey, and doesn't happen overnight. This is an encouraging reminder to us all. Even making small tweaks in how you spend your time and effort can make a large impact over time. For example, a busy working parent can choose to spend 15 minutes each evening reading to his child. It may seem like an insignificant effort, but over the years, he would have built a love for reading and created cherished memories that his child can draw on for the rest of his life. A manager in the workplace can choose to affirm one team member each day, citing a specific example of good work done. Over the days and months, she would have created a positive culture of encouragement and affirmation within her team, allowing them to work together even more effectively to achieve organizational goals.
Thinking back to the indicators of personal success that were mentioned earlier, how would you now prioritize your time, effort and money?
Pause and Reflect
Taking the time to reflect on your plans is a critical factor in your journey to achieving significance. A 2014 Harvard Business Review study showed that reflecting on one's actions helped to make the work experience more productive, and also increases the individual’s confidence to achieve goals. Find time in your busy schedule to get away and reflect on your vision, and your journey thus far. Setting a specific day and time for reflection either weekly or bi-weekly, will make it part of your regular routine. During your reflection time, consider:
- What have been the significant decisions that you have made thus far, based on your vision?
- What are the top 3 positive changes or developments you have seen as a result?
- What are the top 3 challenges that you are currently facing?
Ultimately, in your career and personal life, pursue success while keeping significance in mind. Remembering the big picture will enable you to always ask how you can make a significant impact in the lives of others, even as you achieve your personal goals and ambitions. In this way, you will leave a lasting legacy that enriches the lives of countless others.
© 2016 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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