How to Diversify Your Happiness
Here a hint: Don’t over-invest in work.
If you’ve spent any time thinking about your retirement account or other investments, you’re probably familiar with the concept of asset diversification. The idea is to not over-invest in one particular company or class of investments but to balance your portfolio across different types of assets. As a simple example, it makes sense for many people to invest in both stocks and bonds since when one of the two is up the other is often down. You don’t get crazy high returns when you invest this way, but you usually avoid catastrophic losses. Over time, the balanced investment approach of asset diversification has proven to yield reasonably predictable rates of return. Not super sexy rates of return, but rates in which you can have some degree of confidence.
And, by now, you may be asking yourself, “I thought this was a leadership blog. What’s up with the investment strategy tutorial?” There’s a connection and it comes from a client I’m working with in one of our leadership development programs. On a recent group follow-up call, she and her colleagues were sharing what they’d been working on since our last in-person session on building personal leadership presence. As I’m writing about in the upcoming third edition of The Next Level, the essence of personal presence is to manage yourself by reflecting on where you are and preparing for what’s next. That’s exactly what this client had been doing in the month between our in-person session and the conference call.
When I asked her what she had been up to she said, with excitement in her voice, “I’ve been diversifying my happiness!” She then went on to explain that the discussion we had had in the session about creating a Life GPS® (you can read more about that here), caused her to reflect on what was missing from her life. She loves her job and is great at it, but concluded that she was over-invested in it. Her self-reflection made her realize that she was under-invested in exercise and giving back to the community in some way. She jump started the exercise by riding her bike every day on a recent week-long vacation. The truly inspirational part of her story was on the giving back to the community front.
Using a program similar to the one at VolunteerMatch, she started searching for a cause that matters to her and that she could be personally involved in. In a month, she’s been trained to provide support to families transitioning out of homelessness who have one or more children on the autism spectrum. She’s been matched with a family who has a six year old son who’s on the spectrum, and will be meeting with the family on Sundays since that fits in best with her work schedule. She’s already had her first meeting with the family and is very excited about getting to know them better and providing support.
My client provides a great example of how to diversify your happiness. In her case, she used the three questions behind the Life GPS® to do some self-assessment and reflection. Those questions are:
- How am I at my best?
- What are the routines (physical, mental, relational and spiritual) that enable me to be my best?
- What outcomes would I hope to see at home, work and in my community if I was regularly leading and living at my best?
Then, she asked herself, “What’s missing for me?” and quickly identified some gaps. Then, and this is key, she took immediate action on the exercise gap and prepared herself to close the community gap by doing some research to find an opportunity that she cared about and was do-able for her.
It’s one of those cases where the student has become the teacher—my client has inspired me to take a fresh look at what’s missing in my life and what I can do to diversify my own happiness. Through this post, I hope she’s done the same for you.