Caroline Ghosn has trouble acknowledging her successes. The Levo League founder and CEO certainly has a lot to be proud of, but like so many hard-working, forward-thinking startup leaders, she focuses on the future, rather than her past accomplishments.
About two months ago, she realized that she wasn’t very happy, even though she had every reason to feel fulfilled by her career. “I don’t know why I’m not sleeping well,” she said to career coach MJ Ryan. “I don’t know why I’m not feeling 100% happy with every moment of this experience.” Ghosn, who runs a mentorship and networking organization, isn’t alone in her feelings. A Levo League survey found that 47% of the service’s users are not satisfied with their careers on a day-to-day basis.
With the help of Ryan, Ghosn diagnosed the problem. “The busier you get and the more forward-looking you become, the more difficult it is to actually acknowledge and gain strength and inspiration from the things you’ve already accomplished, which can become problematic when you’re in a startup,” she told Fast Company. “You can lose sight of progress.”
The goal to a happier work life, then, is to find a way to recognize past successes, which for Ghosn is as simple as asking the following three questions every single work day:
1. What am I thankful for today? This does not have to be work related, just anything at all.
2. What did I enjoy today? “Keeping a pulse of what energizes you is really important,” says Ghosn.
3. What am I satisfied with today? “This question is particularly important if you’re one of those people who is seeking excellence and always trying to progress along a path,” Ghosn explains. “The shadow side of that is that you might never feel like you’re in the place you want to be.”
These questions effectively create what Ghosn calls a “to-done” list. Instead of crossing off tasks, you’re tallying accomplishments. Not only do all of those little dopamine hits start to add up, but over time you will get a sense of the types of things that energize and inspire.
This practice relies, in part, on the cult of mindfulness–the business buzzword of the moment that suggests dedicating time to meditative practices will boost productivity and creativity. By taking the time to reflect on her life, she recognizes her achievements, and in theory, that leads her to produce better work.
“I really believe that cultivating creativity as general principle is about managing your energy,” she explained. “And if cultivating creativity is about managing your energy, then managing your energy is about exercises like these that are about achieving mindfulness.”
So far, she says she feels happier, more satisfied, and fulfilled. “My team will tell me I’m more comfortable in my skin, a little less hard on myself–just a lot more comfortable with the fact that we’re moving in the direction that I feel we should be moving in.” And she believes that all of that has led her to greater, and better, output.
She credits the success of her mantra with her dedication to the questions. “The strength from the exercise comes from the ability to form a habit around it and repeatedly execute it day-to-day,” she explained. It forces her to focus on everyday accomplishments, instead of over-representing failures, which so many of us do.