The age old question, “How do you win at the game of life?” (I’d start by challenging the question, sorry, it’s in my nature.) How do YOU define “win?” For me, I think that if I were truly happy and experienced joy everyday I’d consider it a win. I know there are a lot of other issues here but if you were honestly joyful with your station in life you’d manage through most anything. Look, of course I don’t claim to hold the keys to a successful life. If forced to provide a single answer I would say, “Stop competing and start creating.” What? There are years of contemplation behind that statement that I will never be able to express or explain here, but maybe I can find a way to share a bit of it with you.
Seventy five percent of my life I have engaged in some form of organized competition. For those out there that have known me they would say that I have taken most endeavors in my life very seriously. Maybe too seriously. Baseball, football, wrestling, triathlons, cycling and even as a Financial Advisor (companies love to publish your work for your peers to see, basically stack ranking you). I trained and I worked and I played to win. You know “Everyone loves a winner,” “Second place is the first loser,” “no pain no gain.” The idea of competing is still appealing but I view the undertaking much differently now. Physical competition was a way for me to explore what I was capable of doing. How far could I go? The total emersion into the training process was like a science project. Yet I always measure my success by the outcome. When I entered this business over 20 years ago I was drawn to it by an advertisement that said I could “help people” (I wish I would have kept that little one inch newspaper ad) and I engrossed by self in the “planning process.” And that pre-dated the time when Financial Planning was an industry buz word. Yet much if not all of the training was around how much business you would do, which basically equated to income. As a result I fixated my measure of success on income, which was the outcome. In both the physical and professional endeavors it was and still is the process that brings sincere happiness and sense of fulfillment. For those of you that may be students of self-awareness this may sound somewhat familiar. Its basically the foundation of mindfulness but I try and avoid the use of that word. Its been westernized, capitalized and as a result watered down. The constant striving to improve is what makes us feel good and I have the opportunity to feel that way every day. We can’t control every variable of a race or a tax return but we can control how much attention we give to our efforts. This mindset can and I would suggest, should be, applied to everything we do. We can only experience life one moment at a time and an intentional focusing on each task, each project, each conversation can enrich our experiences, deepen our connection to others and help us focus on what matters. It also has the benefit of cutting down on the brain chatter – you know, that stupid conversation you have with yourself all day long. Goal can now be viewed as sign posts along a greater path of continuous improvement rather than destinations in and of themselves. Competition is much like life, it’s a process and opportunity for constant improvement. The enjoyment of reach a goal is one moment in time and deserves to be celebrated. Being completely invested in the process of life is a great way to deepen the enjoyment of all the moments in between which increases the value of your most precious asset – Time.