A Set of Keys

By Ric Asselstine

Honey….have you seen the keys?

Not sure Hon…Where’d yah leave’em?

Sound familiar? It’s actually a good question. Not only where’d we leave’em but also what are they and what do keys do in the first place. Keys unlock doors. Keys start engines. In more ways than one. Let’s have a look….

I am fascinated with how we get the most out of life. I’m a million miles from getting it figured out. Fact is:

a) it’s probably not completely figureoutable, and,
b) the keys to each of our happiness are specific to each one of us.
c) that list is almost endless

But the topic remains fascinating. I think we’ve all seen folks who seem “off the map” at peace while others who seemingly “have it all” on one level seem to have “nothing at all” on another. So trying to unravel even a small portion of what’s up with that is compelling.

Looking at “contentment” is “what I do”. In fact, helping surface how to get from where we are to where we want to be a little more quickly and easily might just be one of my keys. But more on that another time. For now, back to the keys…

My experience and research suggests there may be some common thread “conditions” under which we find ourselves being most content, happiest, satisfied and at peace.

Here they are….

Many times we are most contented, most at peace…

1. When Things Fit. Ever had a pair of shoes that don’t fit? What do we get? Blisters. We are most at peace when our jobs match our skills. We are best when how we spend our time is in line with our priorities.

2. When We Feel Competent. We feel best when we are “good” at what we do. When we know what needs to be done next and how to get it done.

3. When We Feel Connected. We are at our best when we feel connected, to someone or even something! Read pet. Dusty, this one’s for you buddy!

4. When We Feel In Control. We feel best when we feel at least somewhat in control. Of ourselves and of situations. When we don’t feel like we’re pushing a string; rather when we’re firmly planted in the driver’s seat.

5. When We Are Autonomous. Another key to contentment is when we feel as though we’re standing on our own two feet. When we are independent – not dependent. When we can make the call.

6.When We Are Communicating Well. We’re at our best when we are communicating well with others. But even more so when we have a high quality of internal dialogue.

7. When We Are Growing. We’re best when we are looking forward. Not back. When we are growing, not contracting. When we are going “to”, not “away from”.

8. When We Are Accepting. Things go easier when we cut slack. To others. To ourselves.

9. When We Are Present. Somedayitis is epidemic. Locking in on today somehow makes things richer.

10. When We’re Through. And finally, we many times feel best when we’re done. Not while we’re exerting all our effort, but sometime after. When the hanky swipes the brow. When we’ve put in a full day. That’s when it’s all good.

The Need To Step Back

Much of our learning efforts focus on how and how to. What’s not included is the where and why. “To what end” is the unasked question. “Why” are we working so hard to acquire new skills. We don’t step back and ask “to what end all of this”. Why are we trying to do all this? To my mind, these keys are the “why”. New skills help us get to where we want to go. And these keys provide granularity around the “why am I doing this”.

These ten aren’t so much a checklist as they are a start point – a “starter” to build on, add to and customize. Is the list complete? No. The marvelous works of Messers Maslow, McLelland, Herzberg, Csikszentmihalyi, Diener and Seligman are rich veins of “need” and “happiness” (aka subjective well-being) understanding. But the keys we list here are a start. They are my life-lifting, energy-elevating, mood-boosting, smile-stimulating, angst-extinguishing, perspective-producing door openers and engine starters. And while I misplace them sometimes, I always seem to get’em back.

So where are the keys? Where are my keys? As always, they’re right where I left’em. I just had to look.

Ric Asselstine is the president of Watworks.com, a management consulting practice specializing in individual and organizational growth acceleration.


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