The pursuit of happiness and meaning is short when we realize that they can be found when we achieve two straightforward goals: loving what we do and showing it. I call this Mojo and all of the successful people I know have it. It is apparent when the positive feelings toward what we are doing come from inside us and are evident for others to see. In other words, there's no gap between the positive way we perceive ourselves -- what we are doing -- and how we are perceived by others.
Four vital ingredients need to be combined in order for you to have great Mojo.
The first is your identity. Who do you think you are?
This question is more subtle than it sounds. It's amazing to me how often I ask people this question and their first response is, "Well, I think I'm perceived as someone who..." I stop them immediately, saying, "I didn't ask you to analyze how you think other people see you. I want to know who you think you are. Taking everyone else in the world out of the equation, including the opinions of your spouse, your family, and your closest friends, how do you perceive yourself?" What follows is often a long period of silence as they struggle to get their self-image into focus. After people think for a while, I can generally extract a straight answer. Without a firm handle on our identity, we may never be able to understand why we gain -- or lose -- our Mojo.
The second element is achievement. What have you done lately?
These are the accomplishments that have meaning and impact. If you're a salesperson, this might be landing a big account. If you're a creative type, it could be coming up with a breakthrough idea. But this too is a more subtle question than it sounds -- because we often underrate or overrate our achievements based on how easy or hard they were to pull off.
The third element is reputation. Who do other people think you are?
What do other people think you've done lately? Unlike the questions about identity and achievement, there's no subtlety here. While identity and achievement are definitions that you develop for yourself, your reputation is a scoreboard kept by others. It's your coworkers, customers, friends (and sometimes strangers who've never met you) grabbing the right to grade your performance -- and report their opinions to the rest of the world. Although you can't take total control of your reputation, there's a lot you can do to maintain or improve it, which can in turn have an enormous impact on your Mojo.
The fourth element to building Mojo is acceptance. What can you change, and what is beyond your control?
On the surface, acceptance -- that is, being realistic about what we cannot change in our lives and accommodating ourselves to those facts -- should be the easiest thing to do. It's certainly easier than creating an identity from scratch or rebuilding a reputation. After all, how hard is it to resign yourself to the reality of a situation?
You assess it, take a deep breath (perhaps releasing a tiny sigh of regret), and accept it. And yet acceptance is often one of our greatest challenges. Rather than accept that their manager has authority over their work, some employees constantly fight with their bosses (a strategy that rarely ends well). Rather than deal with the disappointment of getting passed over for a promotion, they'll whine that "it's not fair" to anyone who'll listen (a strategy that rarely enhances their image among their peers). Rather than take a business setback in stride, they'll hunt for scapegoats, laying blame on everyone but themselves (a strategy that rarely teaches them how to avoid future setbacks). When Mojo fades, the initial cause is often failure to accept what is -- and get on with life.
By understanding the impact and interaction of identity, achievement, reputation, and acceptance, we can begin to alter our own Mojo -- both at work and at home.
Follow Marshall Goldsmith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/coachgoldsmith