Most people don't want to "do nothing' all day. We have hopes and dreams, goals and ambitions. We want to contribute to the world, make it a better place, not "retire" from it to a life of "leisure." For most of us, the prospects of sleeping in late, lounging on the beach, improving our golf scores, living on cruise ships, and lazing about all day may sound good for a short time, but they hold little allure for us in the long-term.
So, what really matters in life? I can boil the answer to this question down to six major themes:
First a little discussion on the themes.
Wealth - some have more than others, some have less, but most of the people I run across agree that while it can be used to pay for nice homes, fast cars, and fine dining, it can't purchase meaning. Beyond a middle-income level, the amount of money you have bears little correlation to how happy you are.
Health - is critically important to enjoying life. Good health is a combination of luck, a healthy lifestyle, and medical care.
Relationships - are very important. Everyone I meet clearly values their relationships with friends and family members and sees that these relationships are key to their emotional wellbeing.
Contribution/Achievement - for most of us reading this blog we are fortunate in life and seek to give back, make a positive contribution, even leave a legacy. Helping others as we've been helped is important to us.
Meaning - work that has meaning is important to our sense of well being. We want to feel that we are making a real difference in the world.
Happiness - everyone I've ever met wants to be happy. True happiness can't be bought -- it has to be lived!
As you contemplate these themes and set your goals for 2015, you might choose to volunteer or work on projects that make the world a better place. You might choose to change to a job or a career where you have more opportunity to serve. For me, I still teach and give classes, but I focus more on advising people how they can have a great rest of their lives rather than just work harder and "make more money."
Reflecting on life's purpose should start when you're young -- and never stop. I served on the board of the Peter Drucker Foundation for 10 years, so I had a chance to observe Peter personally. He worked until his death at age 95! He was never interested in retiring. He was interested in working to make the world a better place. Through his example, I learned that making a difference means more than, and is very different from, making a living.
Think about your life. Now's a great time to start planning the rest of it. How can you make a contribution? How can you find meaning? What will make you happy? How can you make this time count--for yourself, the people around you, and the world?
Please view the Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog. The next video in the series Personal Advice; What Really Matters in Life? accompanies this article. I'll post these blogs once a week for the next 50 weeks. The series will incorporate learnings from my 38 years of experience with top executives, as well as material from my previous research, articles and books, including What Got You Here Won't Get You There, MOJO, Coaching for Leadership, and Succession: Are You Ready? The blogs will also include material from my exciting new research on engagement and my upcoming book Triggers (to be published by Crown in 2015).