As many of you know, we love to give books to our clients and friends. Books can change lives and good books can change lives for the better. One such book is Arthur Brooks’ newest offering, “From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life.” Brooks is the former CEO of the American Enterprise Institute (a think tank in Washington DC) but now is a professor at Harvard, teaching and writing on finding deep happiness in life.
One of the book’s chapters is entitled Kick the Success Addiction and some of his insights in this area may be helpful to many of you reading this. He begins the chapter sharing a conversation he had with a woman in her early 50’s who was a tremendously successful Wall Street executive. She had invested incredible amounts of time into her career at the expense of her health, her marriage and her relationship with her college-aged children. As Arthur helped her see how much her career was negatively impacting her happiness, she pondered what he had shared and responded, “perhaps I prefer being special to being happy.” By special she meant the admiration of her colleagues and others in her industry.
Brooks calls this success addiction and I would guess that many who are reading this (me included) recognize aspects of success addiction. Brooks offers the following questions to help diagnose this addiction:
- Do you define your self-worth in terms of your job title or position?
- Do you quantify your own success in terms of money, power or prestige?
- Are you uncomfortable reflecting on what will come next after your last professional success?
- Is your “retirement plan” to go on and on without stopping?
- Do you dream about being remembered for your professional successes?
How does one begin to recover from a success addiction? It takes some deep reflection as to what you really want in life and a desire to change – to select happiness, joy and relationships over professional success. As with any addiction, admitting you need a change and determining to change are essential.
Begin today to take time to reflect more on your life – past, present and future. As Thoreau said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” From your reflections you will begin to define the life you truly want to live and will begin moving in that direction.
A life of greatness (the greatness of joy, giving and building deep relationships) is available to us all – let’s begin today!
Written by Matt Palmer, Partner & Co-founder