The Framing of Your Life

By Bob McGannon

Many people ask themselves, “Am I happy?”. It’s a valid question, one which should be fundamental to our decision making process as we go through the stages of our lives. I would like to pose a somewhat different, though equally substantial question; “Should you be happy?”

The answer to this question differs, based upon what values an individual holds, and the degree to which those values and desires are satisfied at any given moment. However, the true question to ponder is, Are these values and desires truly yours, or are they values that are pushed upon us by society and the media?

Many people strive for what they have been told is “the good life”. It’s influenced by their parents, or by what they’ve seen on television. We’ve found that many people react with surprise when we say their values have been altered by television. We can’t forget that the ultimate purpose for what is presented on TV is entertainment or to sell a product or service. The presentation of a balanced set of alternatives and a process for selecting between them is not a topic commonly presented during a 30 second commercial. The commercial is trying to get you to focus on your terrible dandruff problem! Breaking through the norms that society presents to examine what is truly meaningful in your life is key to answering our rhetorical question.

Numerous are the stories of people who are viewed as successful, with prominent positions in prestigious companies, who will admit they are actually miserable. Never are we confronted with the story of a person who, on their deathbed, states they wished they spent more time at work. Contrary to what many people think, we are not stating that work is not meaningful. People such as Mother Teresa would certainly contend differently!

The framing of your life is the key. Examine what is truly meaningful – to you – not to your peers, or your parents. It is soul-searching rooted in honesty. The answers may scare you, but will be the key to answering “Should you be happy?”

Framing provides a perspective of what is inside your life versus what is outside. Breaking down the elements of your life for examination makes framing more manageable. The elements for framing your life are time,passionsfulfillment and growth. Manage these elements, and the answer to “Should you be happy?” is “of course”!

Time – This is the most precious of elements, as it can never be regained! Where are you spending you time? If you had only one day left in your life, what would you do? The answer to that is the number one priority for WHERE you spend your time. Start by planning and implementing one change that adds 1 hour a day to channel towards your time goal – then beware, your perception of your life may change! After this, why not add an additional hour each week to that activity or place.

This leads to the question – can you make this place or activity an integrated part of your work, therefore making your work a more integrated part of your life?

Passions – Examine your work, and what you do with your leisure time. What happens when you have a good day at work? Is it when you get to work with other people? Make presentations? Write or create new processes or tools? Whatever it is, examine the possibilities of making that a greater part of your existing job, talking to your supervisor about the possibilities of getting another job that has more of this desirable content, or – go for it – put yourself on the job market for a job that more closely matches your passions. Make a change like this, and the separation between your “work” and your “life” will narrow. Next thing you know, the segmentation of your life – weekdays vs weekends – goes away as well! Similarly, examine what you do when you have leisure time. Can this become part of your work? Even golf as a hobby has potential if you “frame” it correctly. No we aren’t suggesting that all of you can change your name to Lion Forrest and make ooddles of money playing golf! However, passionate hackers should look at what they enjoy about the golfing experience – being outdoors?; interacting with others?; (what do you discuss on the course – is it a marketable item or experience you have?); groundskeeping? (we personally spend a lot of time repairing the grass!). Think through this, you may surprise yourself with the answers.

Fulfillment – No, we aren’t proposing something like folding your legs, chanting, and “trying to achieve nirvana”. The question for this area of your life examination is, “What makes me feel as if I have accomplished something meaningful?” Picture a day when you felt as if you “made a difference”. Was it a result of a work product? Some aspect of participating in a family event or activity? Did you have the opportunity to help someone out? An examination of what you find fulfilling, and incorporating that into your work will inherently change your attitude, in fact, it will change your life!.

Growth – A primary factor in where you are today is where you started from, and what path you chose. Many people choose a path correctly, others do not. Either way, an examination of that path, and its ability to properly allocate your time, allow you to pursue your passions, and seek fulfillment is fundamental to determining “Should I be happy?”

People understand there are changes and growth points in their lives because of the societal norms that exist. Graduating from college, deciding to get married, having children are all points of obvious change and growth. What many do not expect or foresee however is that a job choice or life path can become stale and can lose meaning. Moving up the company ladder was once very exciting and challenging; it now is monotonous and filled with politics that keeps you up at night. This doesn’t mean you are weaker, it means you have GROWN. A recognition of this, and an adjustment of direction, expectations and priorities can lead to a change that will alter your perspective. You will grow, and new avenues can exist for you to explore. These questions are simple to read and understand. However, they are hard to answer if one truly tries to answer them completely. Look at these again, write down your answers, share them with someone. Have the courage to believe your answers and do something about them. Then the question will become not “Should I be happy?”, but “Why have I gone so long allowing myself to be so unhappy?”!

Bob McGannon is a Founder and Principal of MINDAVATION, a motivational speaking, team building and leadership coaching company. MINDAVATION can be reached via the web at WWW.MINDAVATION.COM or by calling 877-544-MIND.


The Mindavation Foundation is proud to donate 5% of profits towards development of youth leaders.
Copyright © 2011 Mindavation - All rights reserved.