Thursday, May 29, 2008

Think Better - Apocalyptically Happy Now

In a recent study reported by the New York Times, current MBA students ranked their priorities for work. Surprise: compensation was not #1. Unlike post-boomer predecessors, millenials apparently have a different set of appetites. To the new best and brightest, the most important element of work is "challenging responsibilities" at 64%, followed by a closely tied compensation 48% and worklife balance 45%.

What's happened? Since boomers joined the ranks of the working public a lot has changed about how the up and coming establishment see and experience the world, and it's taking some adjustment to make the two worlds meet rather than collide. Heck, Balance Integration even wrote an article on exactly that for and upcoming issue of CIO magazine, offering coaching-based dialogue models for engagement and contribution.

But among the BalanceBreak community we can come clean with a bigger question: who is to say what ranks as a challenge and what doesn't? Think about it: isn't it a huge challenge to deal with beauraucracy or politics? Isn't it a huge responsibility to find meaning in what can be called the "routine" or "tedium" of everyday life? Isn't it a challenging responsibility to turn your life into a meaning filled experience no matter what's going on or not going on?

Michigan homeboy Francis Ford Coppola (pictured above) says - forget perfection, any job becomes a job you hate. As he explored in Apocalypse Now, the dark moments we experience in life originate within us and are an experience and journey we ALL share. So the bigger question is how do we break it to the happy-seeking folks among us (including the happy-seeker within us) that REAL happy only happens within? That happy is a practice? That as the Bhagavad Gita says, you've got the right to the work, but not to the fruit of the work. Translated - you gotta get in there and participate in every part of life with your whole heart no matter the parameters and conditions, and no matter the outcome. It is the darkness within us that stands between us and "happy".

Wishing for challenge? Get ready to struggle deeply, because Challenging Responsibilities feel exactly like that - a struggle that casts us into uncertainty, that force us to question ourselves and our choices, that de-stabilize our sense of who we are. That we face them with dignity and full presence is both the challenge and our responsibility. The sooner we move into this form of thinking, the sooner we get away from transactional spirituality and into a sense of centeredness no matter how made to order our lives feel. When Martin Luther King admonished us to "sweep streets as Michelangelo painted", he was pointing to a path of freedom and happiness that have nothing to do with title, comp or worklife issues or whether you ever "attract" a BMW.

This isn't a very PC message, but when it comes to thinking better about any aspect of life, the sooner you get into agreement that whatever is unfolding IS your challenging responsibility, the sooner you get happy. The Challenging Responsibilities that life gives us don't come with an "accept" or "reject" option. They don't come because we put them onto our wish list or ordered them from Amazon. And they rarely come in the form we fantasized about. Our lives are rarely the movie we might have imagined, but life always holds the potential for epic proportions.

The point is: how willing are you to play the part fully no matter where the story takes you?

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