Counterproductive notions of success or happiness can lead to creative cul-de-sacs or feelings of floundering on the path to finding our calling.
“Don’t aim for success. The more you aim…the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself…”
Victor E. Frankel, Man’s Search for Meaning
As a counselor I often meet clients who are stuck in the trap Mr. Frankel clarifies above. Counterproductive notions of success or happiness can lead to creative cul-de-sacs or feelings of floundering on the path to finding our calling. It is a very understandable trap. Maybe we learned to define happiness or success from the broader culture. After all, we are awash in a stream of Instagram influencers, pop psychologists and life coaches imploring us to find success through the latest quick fixes. How about a Crypto fast track to success? Weight loss your way happiness?
A corollary to such fixes are what I like to call the self-help traps. Focus on yourself. Find your bliss. Speak your truth. Closer to home, maybe we learned what success meant from loved ones who implored us to study this or that subject because “you will make a good living at it.” Waking up to a job we hate was our reward. No one blog can tackle the complexity inherent in seeking one’s calling. However, I believe the two questions I propose below might help anyone attempting to loosen just a bit of the stuckness on the noble journey I believe this challenge to be.
Step 1: “What are My Strengths?”
Working from a strengths-based orientation I view the therapeutic journey as a rich opportunity for clients to uncover and give name to their unique talents. Defining one’s strength is the first critical step in turning success on its head. After we clearly articulate our strengths we can begin to ask my second question. If you need a nudge in this direction, I suggest a resource like Tom Rath’s Stengths Finder 2.0 .
Step 2: “What Do You Think the World Needs?”
When I ask clients this question a noticeable shift happens. It challenges us to move our perspective away from seeing success or happiness as central to how we define our calling. It instead encourages us to view them as Frankl states: “As the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.” This cause will give contour and meaning to one’s strengths. Your strengths and the cause for which you work will take on a symbiotic, self-reinforcing quality. You will avoid contexts where you may languish with your strengths not utilized. I know I don’t need to remind you of that job you hate!
Need more inspiration from Mr. Frankl. Give this a read: Man’s Search for Meaning
Play with these two questions and see where they take you! If you are feeling stuck I am confident they can help if only just a little. Each loosening; Each subtle shift; Each question heretofore unexplored can lead to you stepping fully into your calling. Good luck on your unique journey.
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