The below article was written by GAIN Advisory Board member, Greg Knopp.
“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth; we are happy when we are growing.” — William Butler Yeats
All of us are in the growth business — professionally, personally and in any way you can measure. If you are already part of the Political Involvement Network, chances are that you make professional development a regular part of your job and your life. You invest in yourself and your career on an ongoing basis and understand the connection between happiness and personal growth.
As someone who has spent most of my adult life consciously looking to grow and develop myself and others, I can offer a few humble observations on the subject:
- Look for opportunities at your current job. Rather than spend most of your time looking for that “dream job,” treat every day in your current position job as a graduate class in how to grow professionally and personally. Observe those you work with to find out the right way to do things or, in some cases, to learn what not to do. Then, look for activities, experience and credentials that you can obtain in your current job that make you more marketable and more qualified for what you want to do next.
- Take chances, especially with yourself. You’re the best asset you have, so don’t be afraid to stretch yourself and take a calculated risk — in all phases of your life. As my father told me, “If you aren’t a little uncomfortable when you first start out — in a new job, investment or social situation — you’re not stretching or challenging yourself.” He also advised me to trust myself enough to know that I would grow into that challenge.
- Never forget the importance of loyalty. All too often, people think the quickest way to the top is to keep changing jobs, but this town (like most) really does reward loyalty. If you want to get it you have to give it — to your boss, your organization and to those who count on you. If you burn too many bridges, it becomes difficult to get to where you want to go.
- By the same token, don’t be afraid to change careers if you’re not happy or satisfied in your current path. Your goals, interests and values change over time. Embrace that. Here’s a great TED Talk about anxiety on “what I want to be when I grow up.”
- Remember Steven Covey’s seven habits of highly successful people — especially “start with the end in mind.” Try to imagine where you want to be in 30, 40 and even 50 years from now, then think what you need to do today, this week, this year, 10 years from now, etc., to get there. If you work backward, the steps you need to take now become more obvious.
- Don’t be afraid of hard work, because it is your friend. Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is usually missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Calvin Coolidge expressed it a different way: “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.” Growth does not happen in your comfort zone.
- If you’re not getting the experience or growth you seek in your current job, consider volunteering for a related group. Volunteer organizations offer excellent opportunities to expand your leadership, speaking and writing skills. It’s a win-win-win: the volunteer group gets your time and expertise and you get the chance to take on and learn a new role or activity, as well as the opportunity to further develop your network and personal brand.
- Realize that most of what makes you truly happy in life involves doing something for others, not ourselves. Money should never be the goal, but if you pursue a life to enrich others it will follow.
Perhaps most important of all is the realization that you — and no one else — is in control of your future and your destiny. Nothing happens without your consent. When you see life that way, you feel more empowered because you see the future as an opportunity, one you get to shape and help develop, as opposed to a mandate. You also get to define success for yourself, and the best definition I’ve ever heard for success is living your life in the way you want.
Good luck pursuing your own happiness and may you never stop growing.
Greg Knopp, CAE
Executive Director, Political Programs
American Council of Engineering Companies