In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, he identifies… three signs of a miserable job. (Of course.) I think the same three things that point to a miserable job also point to a miserable life. Here they are:
Immeasurement is not a word, as Pat acknowledges in his book. But the point is that on the job, you need to have a way to measure what counts as doing a ‘good job,’ and in life, you have to have some way to measure what is a good life? or what is success?
Every person has to answer this for him- or herself, because obviously the “good life” to you is different from the “good life” to me. If you don’t take the time to define what is good, or what is success, though, there’s no way you can have a sense of accomplishment or achievement.
Practical Application: How do you define success? What does a good life look like to you? Take some time right now to answer that for yourself. And DO NOT answer in terms of making this much money or having this kind of car. Think about it on a daily basis. What does a good life feel like? What activities does it involve? Now, how did today measure up? How about this week? This month? This year? What are you already doing that falls into your “good life” definition?
Is my life impacting others? That’s what we’re really talking about here. Yes, all of us have a selfish streak and we spend a lot of time (if we’re not careful) just thinking about ourselves. But we’re also hard-wired to want to help others, and we get a sense of fulfillment from knowing that we have helped others, and that we are helping others.
A lot of times, the “heroes” we see on TV — those who do the “big” things, like Oprah and Bill Gates — throw off our sense of what it means to help others. We see someone donate millions of dollars or give away a house and then we look at our life and we think we didn’t do anything… and we can’t do anything. Don’t be deceived, though.
If your job is filing papers, that’s an important job. You’re making at least one person’s life better, and you may be responsible for an entire organization running smoothly. Imagine what would happen if there were no filing system?
Of course that’s a simple example, but the point is that everyone’s life is meaningful to someone… even though we often lose sight of that.
Practical Application: Think about what you did today, and what activities you do in a given week. Who is affected by your efforts? Think about the workplace. Think about home. Think about extended family. Think about friends. Whose life is made better by you? Whose life would be lacking something if you didn’t do what you do? Write it down. Then go back to that list regularly to remind yourself that your life matters. You are making an impact. If you want to make a bigger impact, fine. But don’t be deceived into thinking your life doesn’t already matter A LOT right now.
Just the same as we want to contribute to the well-being of others, we also want others to care about us. (And notice how this “system” works so well — you want to care about others, others want to care about you… that’s the beauty in the design of humanity.)
If you feel like no one really “knows” you or no one cares about you, you might feel like you have a miserable life. Rest assured, though, that there is always someone who knows you and cares about you, though (God, for one). We do have a tendency to isolate ourselves, though, and we have to be careful.
Practical Application: Call someone this week or send an email and let them know you care about them. (But I thought this was about me?) For one, it’s always good to start with an outward action, because inevitably something positive will come back to you… and it may be as simple as you tell someone you care about them, and they tell you in return, “I care about you, too.” Also, make a list of people who you know care about you so you can reference it when you’re feeling anonymous. Maybe you want to call or email one of those people each week and just say, “Thanks for caring… that really means a lot to me.”
To wrap this up…
- Our lives are often better than we think they are. We just have to refocus on what matters to us and then see how our current life measures up. Can it be better? Always. But for starters, celebrate what’s already good… even if it’s just one thing.
- You are not irrelevant. We may feel like that from time to time, but when you really stop to think about it, we are impacting multiple people on a daily basis. If you do something that affects one person, that’s then going to affect how that person affects another person, and so on.
- You are not anonymous. At minimum, God cares about you and I care about you (yes, even though I don’t know you, I care about you… I wouldn’t take the time to write this if I didn’t). But I’m betting there are plenty of other people who also care deeply about you.
You need not wallow in what feels like a miserable life. Rise up and rejoice in what is already good, and then, take baby steps toward making it better.