“I usually do some reflection over the Christmas break as we go into a new year and the same question, asked by a very wise mentor some years ago and which has always stuck with me, comes up – am I living my bliss?”. Teri Stephenson, chief executive of Age UK Lancashire, reflects on bliss.
A narrated version of this blog is available at the bottom of the page
What’s bliss anyway?
Is there a criteria for bliss? As I reflect, I need to remind myself what that means to me now – I change as I age and what is my bliss changes too.
My bliss used to mean that I was “on the up”, that my career was progressing and that I was doing well and being promoted. The hours I worked were of no consequence, how far I travelled for work was just a thing I needed to do. That’s changed.
I needed to feel that I was doing something that I enjoyed and that made a positive difference in the lives of others. That hasn’t ever changed.
My bliss now includes “growing others” – being in a role that allows me to support others to be the very best that they can be and to support them to achieve their own goals.
My work bliss is being in a role where I feel that I’m of use, able to work to my values and work with people who share them, am doing well, appropriately rewarded, supporting others, making a difference, making things better, changing/improving people’s lives and getting stuff done.
Do you know what your bliss is?
It’s always mattered to me that I was doing something that mattered – I’m driven to make a difference in the world. I want to lay on my death bed knowing (among other things) that I put the effort in and made a difference. Dramatic I know!
I’ve been around the third sector for many years and prior to that was a civil servant helping unemployed people find work. I had a brief early stint in the for-profit world, but it wasn’t for me.
I think growing up in Lesotho (South Africa) during apartheid gave me a perspective that the world needed change.
Are you clear about your own motivations and what drives you?
Support at home
Having a supportive partner at home is important and I had mixed experiences with that.
One relationship (which ended for many reasons!), said that he thought that the people that I was working with (at the time in a high-security prison) should be dead and didn’t deserve the time and effort that I put into them.
Another relationship I mentioned applying for a promotion that would have involved travelling to Leeds and was asked incredulously “Leeds! What do you want to go all the way to Leeds for?”. I should point out that Leeds at that time was a 30-minute train ride from my home!
Fortunately, my husband now of 21 years has always been supportive and encouraging, believing that I can achieve whatever I want to and that his role is to make whatever I want to do easy for me.
Are you supported to live your bliss?
Covid has brought about a new pace, causing that bliss question to come up again. For the last 2 years, I’ve had no commute to work as I’ve been fully home-based, which has given me a work/life balance that I haven’t had in many years. I can finally make dinner, do the shopping, be more in rhythm with my body and wake up at a more reasonable time, I’ve bought a treadmill and am getting fitter. I’m just not prepared to give that up now I don’t think – where does that leave my bliss? I’m lucky that my role will continue to facilitate this for as long as I want it to.
Covid hasn’t changed my motivations –the people we work with have never needed us more!
Has Covid changed your perspectives?
How’s your bubble?
The same mentor who asked me the bliss question talked about us living our lives in bubbles and that we grew inside the bubble until we were ready to burst out of that bubble into a new/larger one as we grew and developed. I can certainly reflect on some key “bubble” stages that my own career has gone through, and it’s often been linked to whether I was living my bliss anymore.
I started my current role 3.5 years ago and it’s my first CEO role. I love the organisation and I’m proud of what we do, but does that mean that this will always be my bliss? Ask me next year – I’m living my bliss for now!