There are about 10,000 jokes about trekking around the world and finally reaching the top of a mountain, where you ask, "What is the meaning of life?"
Let us try to answer that question for you, even if we only work on the side of a mountain (above a bar).
For us, it comes down to three things. Three things that can elevate your ability to lead others, as well as the overall quality of your life.
Be self-aware: Being self-aware means you have a clear understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. While this isn't always easy to obtain, the effort involved is a worthwhile investment in your professional future.
Self-awareness requires absolute honesty with yourself about what you want, your skills, and what matters most to you, regardless of your current role, employer or experience. While it can be scary to examine an alternative life, you mustn't let fear to stagnate your progress.
When you're armed with this wisdom, you have an accurate perception of what sets you apart, and can then use your unique talents to magnify your impact in an environment that best suits you. Finding the highest and best use of your abilities will help you better align with your strengths and minimize (as much as possible) avoid job dissatisfaction.Reflect. Write. Publish your ideas and listen carefully to the responses you get.
Understanding yourself also has the added benefit of knowing your blind spots and areas needing improvement. Weaknesses are a problem only if you deny their existence. By acknowledging them, you can address them, and work on improving yourself.
But self-awareness is not just about knowing how you move through the world, but also how your energy affects others. It allows you to understand that everything is connected—your interactions with other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment—and all can be enhanced through better self-awareness.
Have regular conversations with a mentor or friend.
Solicit feedback from people who work for you, and from those for whom you work. Observe your behavior and the ways that people react to you.
Be quiet often enough that you leave room to understand how you are moving through your life. Be quiet long enough that you understand what you really want before it is too late to get it.
Awareness of others: To excel in your career, it's not enough to have self-awareness, you must demonstrate an awareness of others. Honing your powers of observation is essential, and that's nearly impossible to do effectively when you're multi-tasking.
The next time you're with a colleague, put down your phone, move away from your computer and give them your undivided attention. Listen to understand what they're saying, instead of using that time to formulate what to say next. Test your success in this by then asking questions of them or repeating back what you heard. Be genuinely curious. Getting into this habit means you'll gain a deeper understanding of the matter at hand, plus you'll tend to remember what's important to others. These simple actions demonstrate that you're focused on them and that they matter, which will improve your communications and relationships.
This also comes into play when you're making a request of someone. Rather than treat your exchange as a transaction with a means to an end, remember that you have a relationship with that person and show them respect. Most people respond far more favorable to your kindly asking for help than they do to you barking orders.
Another way to increase your awareness of others is to pay attention to not only their words but their body language. For instance, if a colleague tells you "everything's fine" yet she has a feigned smile, and her arms crossed tightly across her chest, she's probably masking something. If something seems incongruent, there's a high likelihood that something is amiss. When you notice these instances, discreetly following up will help you get to the bottom of the issue—and demonstrate your heightened awareness.
Situational awareness: The third area of awareness to master is related to your environment. Your ability to perceive what is happening—or predict what will happen—in your company or industry means that you understand how to connect-the-dots and read between the lines. This could mean that during an all-hands meeting, you're able to decipher that your boss is hinting at a future acquisition.
The more observant you are of what's happening around you, the better able you'll be to see the current reality and future possibilities. Perhaps you notice that your customers are using your aging product in an unintended, new way and raving about it. By paying attention and taking action, you can leverage your observation and help your company find greater success by repositioning its product.
Remember, when you focus on increasing your awareness of yourself, others, and situations, you also increase awareness of something else equally important: your value.
Here's a giant, massive, staggeringly large free tip: to navigate the path to what you want, you must serve others.
Our world is too complex to go it alone.
The only way to build strong and lasting relationships is to be there for others. There is no way to do this by simply waiting for other people to be there for you.
For those of you who are tit-for-tat obsessed and worried that you will give more than you get, let me say this: you will give more than you get.
Yes, to have an amazing and beautiful life, to create anything of value—a company, cause, or lasting achievement—you must give more than you get.
However... in return for serving others, magnificent things will happen when you least expect it. New clients will find you, instead of the other way around. A act of stunning generosity will touch your soul. Someone you love will be saved, or propelled to new heights. Doors will open, as if by magic.
Serve because it gives you joy to serve. But also serve because service brings self-awareness, too.
Reach higher: Do not settle for an average or easy life. Never rest on your laurels or accept "pretty good". Safe does not equal meaningful.
And—this is hugely important—surround yourself with people who are also reaching higher.
But what does it mean to reach higher?
Does it mean get an award, win praise, beat the competition, blow your own horn?
In my mind, it means have a much greater impact than you once thought possible.
Be fully alive. Inspire others through your actions. Feel in your heart and soul what it means to be alive. Minimize suffering. Live with compassion. Pay attention to the miracles around you, and make a few of your own.
Never stop learning, and never stop growing.
When you add up these three principles, it nudges you solidly in the direction of enlightened self-interest. You will be genuinely trying to help other people, while also keeping your own goals and priorities in mind. You will understand your unique talents and perspectives, and you will also know how to understand what makes other people special.
Most importantly, you will be motivated to bring out talent in others, and well as within yourself.
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