Do you focus more on the Content or Context of your life?
During my early twenties, I focused primarily on Content: The money I wanted to earn, the cities I wanted to travel to, the type of work I wanted to be doing, the lovers and friends I wanted to have…
And this turned out to be not too bad of a strategy:
- Focusing on the type of work I wanted to do led me to write and publish a bestselling book (The Art of Success);
- Focusing on the amount of money I wanted to earn gave me the courage to step out of the corporate world and into the world of entrepreneurship;
- And focusing on the adventures I wanted to have kept me in wonderment of this truly magnificent world that we inhabit.
But, truth be told, I didn’t feel amazing in my day to day life. And if you’ve ever been to some of the poorer parts of the world, like rural towns in Asia, India, or South America, you would have seen what I saw when I visited Vietnam in December 2015: Families and children in absolute poverty… but with brighter smiles than almost everybody I see walking the streets of Sydney, New York, Toronto — name your city. And certainly brighter smiles than almost every high-powered, high-paid executive I ever worked with.
It makes you think, doesn’t it?
How can these people be so happy with so little? …
Yet another year passed before I really came to terms with the fact that the Content in my life wasn’t leading me to a deep, sustainable happiness, which is when I began shifting my focus from Content to Context: How did I want to feel, regardless of what I had or what I was doing or what was happening in life? And as you might guess, I started feeling better, a lot better in fact! But my productivity and action took a turn for the worse…
This bothered me because for all of my life up until that point I had always been very disciplined and this had served me well in terms of achieving what I wanted to achieve. Now here I was, a heck of a lot happier, but operating at about 25% of the capacity I was used to operating at!
Looking back on that experience, I now understand what was happening: I was simply focusing most of my time and energy on learning a new skill — a skill that nobody had ever even mentioned to me during my many years at School and University.
What was that skill?
It was the skill of being aware of my “state” (i.e. how I was feeling) and how to shift my state whenever I wanted to, without suppressing my emotions. (Quick note: Never suppress your emotions — this will lead only to much greater problems down the line).
This is something I’m still working on, but I have reached a point where I’m able to feel good pretty much most of the time… and the kicker is that now I’m able to focus on the Content I want in my life (i.e. all the things I want to do and have and experience) while maintaining an elevated state of feeling good regardless of what is happening.
So what’s the moral of this story ?
Focus on both the Content and the Context in your life.
- The Content gives you an orientation — a direction you want to head in so that you can have and do the things you want to have and do.
- The Context allows you to manage how you feel, regardless of where you are at on your journey.
If you’ve been too focused on either one of these — like I was until recently — all I can say is that from my experience it is so worth the time and effort to learn about the other side of the spectrum. You’ll be a more complete Human Being for it.
Until next time.