Get a Life!

By Steven Levy

Now before you get annoyed at the title of this post, please take a moment to consider what those words might mean, beyond the pop culture connotation.

Have you noticed how some people seem to have exciting, adventurous, successful lives while others seem to be living a smaller, more predictable existence? As an executive coach I have the privilege of speaking to many people about their careers and lives. A common theme in these conversations is that people are looking for meaning. Whether they are high-flying executives at the top of their game or high-potential young people just getting started in their professions, everyone wants their work to matter. For their contribution to affect more than just the bottom-line.

So is there a secret to “getting a life?” A LIFE beyond the ordinary? Here are a few insights I’ve gathered over the years of working with incredible individuals and teams:

1. Get clear on what you want

We often compare ourselves to others and presume that the successes they have are what we ‘should’ aspire toward. Think about that for a moment. Do you really want the life that your friend, your family member, that random person on Facebook has (or appears to have)? So you want to be a stay at home mom, or you want the global career, or you want to change the world with your philanthropy? What do YOU want? I’ve found that many people are somewhat unsettled by what their answers to this question reveals about themselves. You do not have to want what everyone else appears to want. Do not compare yourself to other people. Your life is not theirs.

2. Take a long-term view

What do you want your life to look like, to feel like, 10, 20 years from now? This is not the “where do you see yourself in 10 years” question. This is deeper than that, less about the “what” and more about the “why” you aspire toward a certain life, a certain lifestyle, a certain way of being in the world. (This is both more simple and more profound than it might sound).

3. Take responsibility for your own career

It can be very enticing to let a company’s career development process navigate your next moves. While corporate career management processes have their benefits, don’t wait until you are told to move, are laid-off or (shock, horror) are fired. Consciously create your future instead of waiting for things to happen.

4. Be open to opportunities

You are a multi-dimensional human being. You have many interests and passions. Do not assume that what you set out to do after university is exactly what you ‘should’ be doing for 40 years. Your passion for food might lead to a restaurant venture, your interest in health and wellness might lead to nutrition coaching, your love of music might lead to managing a band. You get the idea.

5. Develop self-awareness

It has been said that self-awareness is the most important quality in a leader’s development. While this could include introspection and getting to know yourself well enough so you’re able to regulate your behaviour, it is also about impact. How clear are you in understanding the impact you are having on the people around you? You don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who goes around completely oblivious of how his behaviour affects others.

6. Invest in your relationships

Our busy lives make time a precious commodity and it is easy to lose track of people and simply rely on social media to keep contact with friends, co-workers and family. Being intentional about who the people are who matter, who you want to develop real connections with is important. These relationships are not about networking or building a following or getting more fans, it’s about genuine connections that are meaningful and enriches lives.

7. Be curious

Curiosity plays an important role in learning. Curiosity is the quest for new ideas and information. Curious minds aren’t satisfied with what they already know or have figured out but go after what they don’t know or can’t understand—and that missing information can become a driving need to find out. Learn from them. Apply those lessons.

8. Live your life!

Guest blogger, Ingrid Adams is an executive coach and writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She can be reached at or follow her on Twitter: @ingridinthecity


Steven Levy

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