By Laura Gordon

I’ve heard so many people talking recently about reassessing their priorities in life.

Without a doubt the pandemic has played a role in that. For one, the terrifying mortality rates remind us how fragile and precious life is.

On top of that we’ve all been forced to slow down, travel less, spend more time at home, focus less on material things, and that’s bound to change perspectives too.

More and more people are adopting a “work to live, don’t live to work” approach as they put happiness ahead of success.

Even if you take Covid out of the equation, this change was already happening to an extent. I definitely see a generational difference, with Millennials and Generation Z putting a stronger focus on work-life balance than their predecessors.

I think back to when I was climbing the career ladder in the 80s, 90s and even the Noughties and there was a markedly different work culture.

Being immersed in your business was a badge of honour and burning the candle at both ends was par for the course.

It certainly was in my work life anyway. Early on when I was chasing success, I focused on high-profile jobs, promotions, salary increases, recognition and status.

So I was fascinated to read an article recently discussing success-versus-happiness.

Interestingly it likened the pursuit of success to an addiction, explaining that if you’re constantly on the quest for more, you’ll forever be dissatisfied with what you have.

The author – American business guru Arthur C Brooks who also hosts a podcast on happiness – made the candid admission that he’d once told a friend he’d rather be special than happy.

Great accomplishments meant more to him because he felt like “anybody” could do things that made them happy.

I guess he was right to an extent. We can make choices that bring happiness.

But the problem is, far too often, we don’t.

I can testify to that when I look back on my own career and think about all the times I sacrificed spending time with the people that mattered most because I was so busy.

I was guilty of being the first to drop the kids off at school as I raced to the office. I know now it was a mistake but at the time, when work is all consuming and you’re focused, you don’t see it like that.

I now have two beautiful grandchildren and I’ve impressed upon my kids that they must treasure and cherish every precious second.

My change in attitude started in my 40s when I started my own business. I wanted to take charge of how my time was spent, to be a force for positive change and to live a more fulfilling life.

I also put a stronger focus on my physical and mental wellbeing as I realised I’d be stacking up problems for the future if I didn’t. Today not a day goes by without walking, yoga and mindfulness practice.

Hitting 50-years-young showed me mid-life can bring about a new sense of awareness and happiness, and for me this has come from supporting others – individuals and business leaders – to be the best they can be.

It’s so fulfilling and satisfying to have a real sense of purpose.

Testament to that is the Japanese concept of ikigai or ‘reason for being’, which is all about having direction and purpose, and deriving satisfaction and meaning from that.

In Okinawa women live longer and healthier lives than anyone on the planet with ikigai cited as one of the main reasons.

So I’d like to say to everyone out there reassessing their priorities – learn from that and think about what will provide you with a sense of purpose and true happiness.

Laura Gordon is a CEO coach and group chair with Vistage International, a global leadership development network for CEOs