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The Earned Life: Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment

Marshall Goldsmith wrote The Earned Life: Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment during COVID and released the book earlier in 2022. He is known as one of the top executive leadership coaches in the world (working with CEOs at over 200 companies) and has written several previous bestsellers, including What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How successful people become even more successful and Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be. This is part one of our two-part summary of The Earned Life.

The Earned Life: Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment

Goldsmith asserts that “we are living an earned life when the choices, risks, and effort we make in each moment aligns with an overarching purpose in our lives, regardless of the outcome.

Goldsmith points out that “every breath I take is a new me.” We are constantly moving forward in life, and with each breath, you are a new person, with new options on how to live your life. We each have the power to choose a life of fulfillment. Goldsmith notes that the opposite of fulfillment is regret.

A balanced scale showing Fulfillment vs. Regret

What’s Stopping You from Creating Your Own Life?

Many of us in the 21st century have the freedom and mobility to live the life we want. We can pursue the education we want, learn the skills we want, and do what we like. We are free to live where we want or even just work from the internet. Peter Drucker discussed the challenges with this “paradox of choice” in 2005 (at the age of 95):

“In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”

Goldsmith shares seven barriers holding us back we need to overcome. Which of these barriers are holding you back?

Seven Barriers to Creating Your Own Life

A group of young children sitting at a circle table, learning with their teacher. Our programming locks us in place.
  1. Our first option, unfortunately, is inertia. It is hard to change. Goldsmith notes, “the most powerful predictor of what you’ll be doing five minutes from now is what you’re doing now.”
  2. Our programming locks us in place. Parents, teachers, and others often form our basic program and path in life. It can be hard to change this path.
  3. We are undone by obligation. Parents understand this barrier well.
  4. We suffer from a failure of imagination. Some people struggle to imagine creative options for creating their own life.
  5. We are winded by the pace of change. As I’ve spoken about in the past, the world is getting more complex and changing faster every year.
  6. We are narcotized by vicarious living. Social media and other dopamine-inducing distractions cause us to live through others rather than earn our own life.
  7. We have run out of runway. Your runway is the amount of effective time you have left. Some careers have a short runway (think professional athletes). Goldsmith finds most people believe they have less runway than they really do.

Which of the barriers above are stopping you from creating the life you want?

The Earning Checklist

Goldsmith shares four internal factors and also two external factors to optimize if you want to be successful. The first four were part of his doctoral thesis. The latter two factors are ones he has observed as necessary additions after 40 years in business.

  1. Motivation: This is your “why” – the reason you get up in the morning and maintain focus despite setbacks. It is more than just desire – it is a strategy.
  2. Ability: You need to have the aptitude and skills required to achieve your goal. This is why 99.9% of the kids who dream of becoming professional athletes don’t make it.
  3. Understanding: This is the knowledge of what to do and what not to do to achieve your goal.
  4. Confidence: You must believe you can accomplish what you’ve set out to do. This may seem less important than the other items on this list, but many people with enough of the other factors fail their goal here.
  5. Support: Goldsmith has learned that achieving goals also requires outside help. The three sources of this help are organizations, individuals, and groups. I can personally share how my career has benefitted from support at all three of these levels.
  6. Marketplace: A fulfilled life requires us all to earn a living. You should focus on using your natural strengths, but if there is no market for what you’re offering, no amount of motivation, ability, support, etc. will overcome that hurdle.

Goldsmith notes that each of these six factors must be present and aligned to achieve success. Additional chapters in the first half of the book help you determine the level of risk you’re willing to accept in your life and encourage you to become a genius, or expert, in at least one area of your life. Goldsmith’s goal is to help us achieve alignment between our mindset, desires, and actions. Alignment in your life is a big step towards fulfillment – living an earned life.

Part II – Earning Your Life

While Part I of The Earned Life: Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment focuses on your mindset, Part II is all about taking action. This is the topic of our next post, where we will complete our summary of Goldsmith’s 2022 book. As always, read the full book for more explanations and examples.

Check back to this blog in a few weeks for a summary of the second half of this great book by Marshall Goldsmith. We suggest you subscribe to receive our updates in your inbox.

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