I’m not what I do. I’m not what people say about me. I’m not what I have. My life is not rooted in this world , the things the world gives me – Henri Nouwen
At times success can be a bitter/sweet experience. What happened when it leaves a bad aftertaste?
I work with some very talented people who have accomplished a lot and dream big dreams. Some are deeply satisfied with the results of their efforts and others seem to be continually in a state of restless unease. What is the chief difference between the two groups other than the resultant emotional state?
When I ask them why they pursued the project or dream in the first place the answer is very revealing. If they are driven by self-centered interests they are in for a big shock.
Those dreams never fully satisfy.
Dreams That Disappoint
One would think that we would relish the accomplishment of a dream. But the opposite could be true. If the dream is based on ego drives then the person is left wanting after the achievement of the once prized goal.
Essentially the ego is self absorbed through achievements such as career advancement or financial gain. These personal advances may initially produce satisfaction but in the long term can leave the person with empty feelings and a bad aftertaste.
Why is that?
The answer lies deep within the human psyche. We are designed to find fulfillment in serving others and transcending our selves. A NY Times article “Is giving the secret to getting ahead” sets out the research basis for the giving is better argument. “How can I help?” proves to be much more satisfying personally than “Let me show off stuff”.
If after your stellar performance you are left with some of the following feelings or thoughts
“Why does this achievement feel so empty?”
“When is the other shoe going to drop?”
“Why am I restless to get to my next goal?”
“How can I keep advancing my brand with more performances like this?”
Then more likely than not you will have an ego-generated bad taste.
But not every dream has to end with the blahs. Sometimes our achievements are
Dreams that Fulfill
The most satisfying and fulfilling dreams start with the deep desire to serve by improving other peoples lives and in turn, improving one’s world. It also touches peoples’ deepest aspirations for themselves. And, incidentally as the NY Times article points out, altruism spurs productivity and creativity.
I met an award winning investigative reporter who told me, “My work is not just about winning awards. In fact, it is not just about the story. It is about bringing small and significant changes to people. And sometimes, with luck and lots of hard work, the story leads to a major change in a group or organization.”
Humans are not just motivated by self interest (ego needs) but by self transcending drives which are at the heart of people with a bent towards service.
Here are some of the behaviors of a service-driven person. They
Focus on “us” not “me”
Downplay their status and uplift others
Ask how they can be of service
Are not in it primarily for the awards or recognition
Take themselves with a pinch or salt
Have a humble streak
Altruistic people can be goal oriented and glad for a good outcome. However they are not overly attached to the recognition that comes from success. In fact they are quick to give others recognition.
Questions for Reflection
So, how did you give at the office or at home or in the community?
Why did you decide to give in the first place?
Your answers will shape how your success tastes.
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