Project Management

Achievements - Stress = Contentment

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Recently I wrote an article about creating a sustained lifestyle. In the article I introduced a concept which contrasts achievement (doing something meaningful that accomplishes a desired result which gives you joy) and stress (the degree of mental, physical, or emotional strain undertaken to achieve a desired result). In the model I define four different lifestyles driven by achievements and stress, as follows:

  • A frustration lifestyle is the result of high stress accompanied by low achievement. Think burning the midnight oil on projects that get cancelled last-minute or never used.
  • A boredom lifestyle is the result of low stress accompanied by low achievement. Think getting up every morning with nothing to do.
  • A burnout lifestyle is the result of high stress accompanied by high achievement. Think successive strategic projects with demanding customers, a dysfunctional team, and irrational management.
  • A sustained lifestyle is the result of low stress accompanied by high achievement. Think volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about on your work terms.

As I’ve thought more about the achievement/stress concept, it’s occurred to me that the push-pull of achievements and stress apply to more than a person’s career or vocation. It can apply to elements such as family relationships, health, and finances. You can have high achievement/low stress in your career, but if you have low achievement/high stress in another area of your life, your overall contentment level is adversely impacted. It’s not enough to manage achievement and stress only in your career or vocation; it needs to be managed in other areas of your life as well. Given so, I adapted the good-enough contentment model I created for my Behind Gold Doors-Nine Crucial Elements to Achieve Good-Enough Contentment book to include achievement and stress as driving factors. I tested the model on myself (I ate my own dogfood as we like to say at Microsoft) and was surprised at the clarity I found in defining what good-enough contentment means to me. So, here’s the revised model, explained step-by-step:

  • In the good-enough contentment model, there are nine crucial life elements that holistically reflect a person’s life, as follows:
    • Career Contentment - How content you are in your current and future career potential
    • Family Contentment - How content you are with your family life
    • Health Contentment - How content you are in your physical and mental health
    • Friendship Contentment - How content you are with relationships built and maintained with friends and loved ones
    • Financial Contentment - How content you are in your current and future financial status
    • Leisure Contentment - How content you are with quality time spent on leisurely activities
    • Spiritual Contentment - How content you are with your spiritual life
    • Giving Contentment - How content you are with your pay-it-forward giving
    • Legacy Contentment - How content you are with the legacy you are leaving behind should you die today
  • In column A, indicate the importance to you for each contentment element:
    • Extremely Important
    • Very Important
    • Somewhat Important
    • Not so important
    • Not at all important
  • In column B, note for each contentment element when you feel a sense of achievement. For example, in the Giving Contentment element you may feel the greatest sense of achievement when you are able to see first-hand when someone’s life situation improves when you’ve given your time or money to help that person.
  • In column C, note for each contentment element when you feel stressed. For example, in the Health Contentment element you may feel stressed when you weigh yourself and see you’ve gained ten unwanted pounds.
  • In column D, write an honest statement of what your contentment goal is for each element, taking into account how you maximize achievements listed in column B and minimize stress listed in column C.
  • In column E, define specific actions for each element you need to take to get from your current state to your contentment goal in column D.

As you work through this model there are a few considerations for you to ponder:

  • Focus on the extremely and very important elements - You can certainly have goals for all the areas, but don’t spend time on an element that is less important at the expense of one more important to you.
  • Be ambitiously realistic - Create goals and actions that are within reach and challenge you, but be careful about putting things down that deep you down know you’ll never achieve.
  • Be brutally honest with yourself – If building a legacy isn’t important to you then say so. The goal isn’t to make every element important, but to consider each element then make the conscious decision whether it is important to you.
  • Recognize that priorities change over time – As you get older, some elements that you felt weren’t important may now be much more so. I’ve certainly found that elements like legacy, giving, friendships, and leisure are more important to me now than when I was in my twenties.

Maximizing achievements and minimizing stress across your life is critical to achieving good-enough contentment. Take some time to download the model and go through the exercise. Private message me with your thoughts!

Posted on: February 25, 2021 11:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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Luis Branco CEO| Business Insight, Consultores de Gestão, Ldª Carcavelos, Lisboa, Portugal
Dear Lonnie
Interesting this theme that brought to our reflection and debate
Thanks for sharing and for the spreadsheet that can be very useful as a work tool
Interesting to introduce the multiple dimensions of our life

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Melanie Theisen Brookhaven National Laboratory Ridge, Ny, USA
Excellent and timely article. I am in the burnout stage, as I'm sure many others are in this time of Covid. Now I can do more to help me clarify my chaotic thoughts and develop a plan of action.

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Leonardo Marinelli Prado Lopes Head of HR Services & Solutions| Clariant São Paulo, Sp, Brazil
Very good and simple article that goes to the basic. As mentioned by Melanie, considering COVID times, good timing as well.

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Leonardo Marinelli Prado Lopes Head of HR Services & Solutions| Clariant São Paulo, Sp, Brazil
Very good and simple article that goes to the basic. As mentioned by Melanie, considering COVID times, good timing as well.

avatar
Mário Reis Lisboa, Portugal
Very simple and practical model and explanation. Thank you! It has come in the right time

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