It’s difficult to be self-aware in this world–especially in the context of business.
Reading that probably sounds ridiculous. And privileged. And you’re right–it’s absolutely both of those things. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
The material world works best for superficial people. In fact, popular culture is created to keep such people asleep–unaware of the origin of their suffering. Have you watched television? Most of it is utter brain-washing garbage, save a few binge-worthy streaming services.
The fact is, most people are satisfied living an unremarkable life. Most people are okay with struggling through a 9-5 and spending the weekends drinking and consuming other forms of temporary and fleeting pleasure.
But there are exceptions.
People who are motivated to achieve success and also recognize its limitations. For those select few, making money–even millions–isn’t enough to feed their soul. And they have the burden of knowing that from the beginning.
Those are my favorite type of clients.
As a coach that specializes in working with C-suite executives and promising entrepreneurs, I have the honor of hearing the inside story about life behind the scenes. And it’s not the Instagram highlight wheel that’s typically shown–especially for motivated individuals with exceptional emotional intelligence.
For those individuals, the story is much more interesting and uncomfortable. Because they see the game while they’re playing it. And that means that they have the additional challenge of making sure they aren’t getting played.
Sometimes success can become a trap.
Imagine. Perhaps you believe that you need a certain amount of money to be happy. Or you think that you need a specific job to build the career you’ve always wanted. And then it happens–you surpass your aim. Over and over again.
You set your goals and then you achieve them. Only to discover in the process that it isn’t everything you imagined. Everything you hoped it would be.
Because there are always more goals–things to be desired.
One day, you realize that you can make as much money as you want. You could upgrade from a BMW to a Porsche. A Porsche to something more exotic. It only takes a few more hours each day.
You could build, scale, and sell another company. You could spend another few hours each week consulting for extra cash. You could say “yes” to a million more networking opportunities.
But at the end of the day, you know that chasing that carrot doesn’t lead to the fulfillment of your being–the deep feeling of contentment resonating in your heart. And that creates quite the dilemma.
Once you have the insight into this pattern–of achievement, success, and emptiness–you have the responsibility to do something about it.
That’s typically where I, as a coach, enter the picture. But other times, people have to figure it out on their own. And it’s an arduous process.
I had a client recently tell me that one of the most difficult things he’s experienced, as an entrepreneur passionate about helping others, is telling people no. Making the conscious decision to turn down a weekend trip for equity. Of turning down $20,000 for a few hours of extra work.
It’s one of those things that sounds easy until you’re faced with it. Do you take the money and stay in hyperdrive, or do you guard your time and spend time doing unprofitable activities that feed your soul?
That’s difficult to stomach. Especially in a world in which the popular narrative is to take the former at the expense of the latter.
If you’re not careful, you can become the victim of your own success. You can get caught in the machine of your own creation.
That company you once perceived as your child–your pride and joy–has now transformed into a small, chaotic village to govern. The side ventures you used to do for fun morphed into an obligation to pay for your new house. And before you know it, you’re caught in the undertow.
You’re living someone else’s life. You’re disconnected from your values. You’re in a constant state of stress. And you’re unhappy.
All because you followed the rules and did what you were told. You said “yes” so many times that you lost yourself. And you forgot your true values in the process.
Don’t allow something as trivial as money to get in the way of living your deepest truth.
One of the most important ways to avoid this trap is to maintain self-care. Doing things that make you happy. Not the ego “you” that wants to chase success–the you that wants to live a fulfilling, meaningful life.
Try to separate these two parts of yourself. Give each of them a voice. Notice when they are in conflict with one another. And always be aware of which one is getting the most attention.
There is an old Cherokee legend–the story of two wolves.
A young boy is asking his grandfather about life. He describes an inner conflict, saying that it feels like there are two wolves fighting within.
One is full of greed, envy, arrogance, self-pity, and ego. The other is full of empathy, kindness, peace, and humility.
He asks his grandfather which wolf will win this hostile struggle. And his grandfather replies, “the one you feed.”
Let this story remind you to live according to your values, even if it means making difficult decisions. Even if it means saying no to opportunities others would kill for. Because that’s what it takes to live a fulfilling life.
It’s uncomfortable to have high self-awareness and work within a system designed to keep you working at the expense of your wellbeing.
But as someone blessed with this insight, you have the responsibility to take meaningful action. To feed the wolf you want to win the fight.