A common trait for leaders is their strong ambition and passion for what they do, which inevitably pushes them up the career ladder to the top rung. As top-performers, MDs, GMs, and C-suite executives may think they have no place left to go once they reach this level, however it is important to realize there is more than one way to grow. The ceiling we hit is the one we make for ourselves, not only in our careers but also in life. There is a momentous amount of opportunity to continue on a growth journey and this doesn’t have to only be defined through job title or status.
Vocation comes from the Latin word ‘vocatus’ which means ‘calling’. If we look at our careers and our vocations as callings, then perhaps we would approach them from a different place within us. So much of our day is spent at work that if that work is not engaging and meaningful, then you spend most of your time in service of money, and ‘putting food on the table’. When your career is your calling, you spend your days working not just your mind, but your heart and soul.
Your purpose is linked to activity that is outside of you and comes from a deeper part of us—it speaks to our spirit. I have spoken to many executives who went up the corporate ladder and were driven by money, esteem, or outwardly defined success, and once they got to the top, they realized that they had been operating from the outside in, rather than the inside out. They realized money and worldly success didn’t mean much if it was not linked to their calling or if they were not in service of others. After the basic human needs are met, money will not buy happiness. Only a life of meaning and purpose will result in contentment and authentic happiness.
According to positive psychology, a life of authentic happiness must include three ingredients:
Do things that give you moments of joy. This can include travel, shopping, eating, hobbies - hedonistic pleasures.
Do things that exercise your character strengths most of the day, every day. For example, for those who have the strength of curiosity, they would perhaps enjoy a profession as a researcher, those with strengths of wisdom/knowledge, a student or a seeker, or someone who has art and creativity, a career as a writer or entrepreneur.
Identify your character strengths and use it in service of the greater good. It must be in service to something bigger than you and your immediate family. If people do not have meaning and purpose, they typically go from one moment of pleasure to another and feel a gnawing sense of meaninglessness. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and/or addictions as a way of self-medicating the sadness that is experienced as a result of feeling like their life has no meaning.
The way we live our purpose may change over time but the underlying value or character strength usually is the same. Find pleasure, engage with others and actively seek out your purpose, and once you do, share it openly and wholeheartedly. The beauty of life comes with the guarantee it is ever-changing and as human beings, our access for growth is endless.
Words by Dr Saliha Afridi, a clinical psychologist and the Managing Director of The Lighthouse Arabia