I have been reading John Carver on Board leadership and I realize that his message is easily transferrable to the individual.
The difference between leadership and management is that leadership creates the vision of what is to be, and determines general principles of how to get there and how not to get there. Management (staff) react to that vision by translating the vision into reality, managing the details of functioning in the world.
Most Boards don't spend a lot of time on their vision and end up doing staff work.
But it turns out that most people also don't create a vision and purpose for their lives and end up reacting to the twists and turns of fate rather than riding them. Basically getting caught up in each tree as an obstacle or a goal and losing sight of the forest and the lay of the land. Forgetting what you really want by getting lost in daily busy-ness.
Carver talks about creating a statement that answers "What is reason for this Board/organization's existence?" This question is broken down into three parts: 1. for what benefit to the world is the organization created, 2. who is the intended beneficiary (who do we serve), and 3. what cost is involved (money, but really all resources).
When translated to the individual, the big question is "Who am I?" Seems like a difficult question that many have grappled with. But let's get practical: 1. what do I do that is of benefit to the world?, 2. who benefits from what I do, who I am? and 3. what does it cost to maintain me - money, other people's love and affection, living space, etc.
What is my usefulness. I think answering that question is a very empowering and powerful exercise. Can I work on maximizing my positive impact on the world, leave everywhere and everyone better than where I found them? Can I do more meaningful and useful work? Can I be more loving and available to others?
What is my impact on my environment and on others. This is a realistic question: am I needy and a drag on those around me? Do I require a lot to live happily? Do I need a lot of space to live? Can I minimize the negative impact on the world, take less resources to be happy and satisfied?
It turns out that happiness lies in giving more than you take... and true leadership is about taking charge of your own happiness.