Tag Archives: Happiness

Do You Ever Think About Your Legacy?



This has been a tough week.  A dear friend’s husband had a stroke.  A young acquaintance died.  A friend lost a job.  Another friend had a baby girl. The juxtaposition of all these events has made me think of  mortality and therefore, my legacy.  What will people remember about me?  What difference will I make in the world?  Whether today is my last day or I have 50 more years, what impact will I have on my world?

Steven Covey, in his best seller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, made one of the habits “Begin with the end in mind.”  Obviously, it is hard for us to begin with our legacy in mind.  As children, we can’t grasp the concept of a legacy.  We feel immortal and think in the present.  As children we aren’t able to grasp how we can/will have an impact.  We live our lives, usually as best we can, and we get smarter.  At some point, we suddenly realize that our existence in this world can change the world and that we can influence that.  That’s the really cool part.  We can influence it.

Have you thought about it?  I probably first thought about it when I attended a Leadership Development program in my late twenties.  I was about the same age as the young acquaintance who died this week.  They had us write an obituary.  Begin with the end in mind.  When you read obituaries, you get a snapshot of people’s  lives–what was important to them–

  • their families
  • their military record
  • their accomplishments
  • their publications
  • their interests

(For one of the most interesting obituaries, read this one.)

Obituaries take it down to the most important things in your life.  So for you, what is that?  Are you focused on the things that are most important to you?  Is that how you spend your time?  Or do you spend your time on what other people think is important?

When you encounter life events like I have this week–a death of a young person, a friend with a stroke, a birth of a baby–it helps to re-focus you on what is important.

The most important things to me are:

  • my family
  • my work
  • my students and clients
  • learning

What about you?  What will people say about you?  What are you focused on?  What are you ‘wasting’ your time on?  Are you proud of what you have accomplished so far?  What else do you want to accomplish?  What are you going to do about it?  You have the ability to influence it.  Today.  Tomorrow.  As many tomorrows as you have.



Filed under Goal Setting, Personal Change, Reframe

Reflections on Being a Mother, Working and “Leaning In”

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a great day to reflect on being a mother.  And on being a mother who works.  And on the controversy over Sharon Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.  I come from a family of working mothers.  My mother worked.  Her mother worked.  It frankly never occurred to me not to work. It never occurred to me to hold back or not be ambitious (something that Ms. Sandburg says that some women do). I guess I was lucky–I had models of working mothers who managed both jobs and families. I had the luxury of having a husband who believed that I should work, who supported me in working and who carried close to a 50/50 load at home (he traveled more than me for many years, so it wasn’t 50/50 in those years).  My kids were adequately cared for–if not perfectly cared for; my house was never really clean, and my career worked well enough–until I got near the top of the organization.  Whatever the reason for my not becoming a C-suite-r, it wasn’t because I was a mother or because I cut corners because I had a family.  Or maybe it was.  Maybe the people above me made decisions about my career taking my family into consideration.  I don’t know.  I just know that a certain point I chose to leave the organization where I worked because I definitely wasn’t going up any more and there were interesting opportunities for me outside of working for that company.

The bottom line is that being a mother is very important. Working is very important(to some). Being at the top is very important (to some). You have to find your balance among them. You have to find your own happiness.  There are prices–guilt, being tired, dirty houses, missed soccer games. As long as you’re being driven by your own values and dreams you can make it work. I have two very successful daughters, in part because they had a model to follow.  My successful sons regularly do more than 50%.  I guess they had a model too.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Diversity

Which Comes First, Success or Happiness?

One of my favorite coaching clients recently told me a story.  She said that her brother went into a florist and while checking out, spotted a framed Master’s or Doctorate diploma in Engineering on the wall. He asked the store owner why the diploma was there. The man said, “To remind me why I am a florist.”  My client went on to say, ” while it’s great to succeed, make sure you’re succeeding because you’re doing what you want, not succeeding despite what you want to do.”

My experience is that unhappy people can’t experience their success.  Others can look at their accomplishments and think, “Wow, that person is really successful.”  S/he is an Executive VP or a CEO or a millionaire or a business owner.  Those are the hallmarks of success, right?  If you talk to people with these credentials, however, you’ll sometimes find that not only do they not see their success, they are driven to hit the next goal, and the next one, and frequently you’ll find that they are not happy.  For folks who have not hit these marks yet, and strive for them, that seems incredible–how can they not be happy if they have . . .?”

There are several reasons these folks aren’t happy.  Sometimes, to my client’s point, we’re working toward someone else’s success.  We’re doing what we think we should, or our parents wanted us to, or because we believe that it is the only way to pay our kids through college.  For some people, there is a lot more happiness in striving than in achieving.  That’s true in part, because we think there is a magic in achieving and everything will fall into place once the goal is achieved. When the magic doesn’t happen instantly, then there is a tremendous disappointment and disillusionment.  Some folks don’t believe deep down inside that they deserve success (or happiness, for that matter) and they never see that they’ve achieved it.

Look at it the other way, though.  Are happy people successful?  I’d have to say, yes, in my experience they usually are.  There are several situations that are work related that can contribute to your happiness.  First, if you are working at your “calling,” then it gives your life and work meaning.  Second, if you are challenged and building your skills, that usually creates happiness.  Third, if you can see that you’re making a difference, then that usually contributes to happiness.  Happiness is less about the end state (success by some people’s definitions) and more about what is happening now.  If you like what is happening now, however, you are usually focused on it and delivering at a high level, and that leads to success.

So, are successful people happy?  Sometimes.  Are happy people successful?  Usually.  Happy people’s success is usually self defined, though, rather than “other” defined.  Others usually agree, though.    Seems to me, then, that it would be more productive to work on being happy, rather than being successful, because you’re more likely to get two for the price of one.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development