Work would be a lot more pleasant if it were seen as an opportunity for self-expression and growth — in terms of what we can give to it rather than what we get from it. Some years ago at Ananda we were rebuilding houses that had been burnt in the forest fire that destroyed most of the community in 1976. Everyone was pitching in, and consequently we had people on the carpentry crews who could be described, charitably, as less than qualified.
One day as we broke for lunch, the crew was discouraged because we were actually farther behind than when we started the day. The head carpenter on the project gave us all encouragement and a chuckle by saying, “Well, let’s remember, we’re not building houses. We’re building character.”
Your real job in life is self-development. As you build a career, you gradually define your character. Most people worry about what their salary or position will be in the future, but a more valid question would be, “What qualities do I want to have in five years?” Your career is the canvas on which you will create that person.
1. Review Your Goals
Today, take time to review your goals. Step back from your daily routine and see life as a unified whole. Ask yourself these questions: “What do I really want in my life? Why have I chosen this particular job? How does my career relate to my deeper goals, to my personal fulfillment?”
Life’s goals can be attained only after they have been identified, so take a few minutes to write down what is most important to you. Knowing what you want from life can help you be more effective in your career. Once you know your priorities and keep them clear, you are on your way to a truly successful life.
The drive to succeed is a primal force—seen even at the cellular level. Success at work is vital to your sense of self-worth and fulfillment. Most people define success according to salary, title, or status—what we might call the social symbols of success.
But there is another, more important way to look at the subject. “Inner success” has little to do with rewards or recognition. It is defined by what you are rather than what you have. A truly successful person is happy and contented and lives according to his or her own principles. On his deathbed, not even a workaholic gasps out, “I wish I could have spent more time at the office.” In the end, a successful life is judged by the simplest of questions: “Have I lived up to my ideals? Have I loved and been loved?”
3. Hard Work
There is no substitute for plain hard work. Lazy people do not succeed, nor are they happy, because both success and happiness require energy. Doing your job without intensity is a formula for failure. Edison said, “Genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” If you train yourself to break through resistance points, the inner temptation to give up, you’ll find new strength flowing into you—a kind of second wind. One way to be a winner is to put energy into everything you do, even small tasks like answering email.
Directing your energy, like balancing on a beam, is more a matter of focus than of effort. Tension just introduces friction into the system, so if you learn to relax, you’ll be more effective.
If there is a single quality that society needs today, it is integrity. The business world, especially is crippled by a lack of morality. Yet, virtue is personal—it must begin with you. Don’t sacrifice your integrity for a temporary advantage, because ultimately, how you work will help define who you are. Never, but never, lie or cheat or intentionally hurt others. You shrivel with every dishonorable act. Loyalty to your employer is important; even more important is loyalty to honesty itself.When it is difficult to know what course to take, always choose the course that allows you to be a better human being.
5. Be Enthusiastic
Many people stumble through life taking two steps forward and one step backward. Their efforts are blocked by a lack of enthusiasm, almost as if they are embarrassed by accomplishment. Don’t be afraid to let people see your enthusiasm. Act enthusiastic even when others are not, and you’ll be surprised at how easily others accept your ideas. Being positive unleashes your own strength and creativity and attracts help from other people.
Positive enthusiasm will also strengthen your power of willingness. Here’s a simple technique: Take on something that is easily within your capabilities and be sure to accomplish it. Gradually take on more and more difficult challenges, and make sure you always complete them. Eventually you’ll find that you have tremendous energy—you can even draw the power of the universe to support your goals.
6. Take Responsibility
The most prized workers in any company are those who can get the job done. Henry Ford valued responsibility above all else, always promoting those who expressed this rare quality. Accepting responsibility requires both strength of mind and strength of will. Once you accept an obligation, be willing to move mountains to accomplish it! Never try to shift your responsibility to someone else. Be like President Truman, who kept on his desk a plaque, which said in bold letters, “The Buck Stops Here!”
7. Patience and Perseverance
No career can be successful without patience and perseverance. To achieve results you need to accept the natural rhythms of people and projects. Impatience simply adds tension, not efficiency.
The active side of patience is perseverance, which is required in all large projects. Discipline yourself to stay with a task until it is finished, even if it takes great will power. In the end, all obstacles will crumble when faced with patience and determination. In working with others, patience can mean the difference between making friends or creating enemies. Accept people as they are, not as you wish them to be. When you support others with patience and faith in their potential, you open the door for miracles to occur.
Strive for excellence. Unless you aim for the heights you will never be more than mediocre. Yet excellence, like a mountain peak, is reached one step at a time—by determined acts of daily dedication. Each job has certain critical skills and attitudes you must learn in order to succeed. Take a moment to make an inventory of the basic requirements in your job, and then set out to master them. It will take study, determination, and practice, but unless you make the necessary effort you can never excel.
No concert pianist ever walked onto the stage without countless hours of practice at the keyboard. Excellence also has a broader implication than just job skills. Strive for excellence in all areas of your life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
9. The Law of Reciprocity
One of the fundamental laws of the universe is the Law of Reciprocity, known as “karma” in the teachings of the East. The law says that life reflects back to us the kind of energy we put out, just as a mirror reflects back the color and intensity of the light it receives. Give love, kindness, and compassion, and the world will return these to you. Build your career upon a ruthless disregard of others, and the universe will mirror callousness back to you.
Once we understand this principle, it becomes clear that the way we perform our work is more important than what we achieve. Our most important job is to become the kind of person we want to be. Our career is simply a means to that end. It is not so important to please others, but it is vital to follow our own sense of righteousness.
10. Have Fun
Life is a quest for happiness. It is important that we find enjoyment in our work since it takes up such a large part of the day. A positive and happy attitude makes our minds and bodies function better, and makes us much more effective at our job. Laughter has been found to be a great healer. Sometimes we just need to sit back and have a good belly laugh at life. True joy comes, not from circumstances, but from our very nature.
Stop occasionally, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and decide to be happy. A positive outlook creates positive magnetism, which elevates everyone around you. Develop a light “specific gravity”—so that you float like a cork on the waves of life. Especially when you are down, try to associate more with those who instinctively live with a light consciousness. Life is too short—and the workday too long—not to fill it with fun.
11. Build Your Character – Build Your Career
As you build a career, it’s very helpful to step back periodically and evaluate the kind of person you are becoming. As you do that, here are six key character traits that everyone should strive for:
- Integrity—Be the kind of person you would want your son or daughter to marry.
- Harmony—Your career should create a circle of friends, not an army of enemies.
- Inner Strength—Be like an oak, strong and flexible enough to weather any storm.
- Focus—Make your mind a powerful laser, able to cut through all difficulties.
- Creativity—Become a flowing fountain of new ideas and fresh energy.
- Happiness—Be filled with delight for life, sharing your joy with everyone.