I brought something unexpected back from my recent trip to Bruges – and I’d like to share it with you.
Sadly, it’s not the hand-made Belgian chocolates, which didn’t survive the return journey on Eurostar. Nor is it the rather strong Belgian beer, which didn’t survive my team’s latest dismal offering on Sky’s Monday Night Football.
It’s a question. About satisfaction, which is something that crops up in many executive coaching assignments.
Job satisfaction. Career satisfaction. Satisfaction with relationships. Satisfaction with self. Satisfaction with colleagues, with peers, with boss. Satisfaction with life as a whole.
Often, it’s raised in such a tone and adorned upon such body language that the word satisfaction is preceded by a silent ‘lack of’ and proceeded by a decent approximation of the despairing lyrics of Messrs Jagger and Richard.
The next time a client raises satisfaction as a theme for coaching, I shall be ready with my shiny new question, which was inspired by a visit to the Salvador Dali exhibition in Bruges. As well as being at the forefront of the surrealist movement, Dali was a flamboyant personality and mischievous provocateur (it says here) and the exhibition is peppered with some of his most famous quotes.
My favourite of which is: ‘There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.’
I love the idea that satisfaction, seemingly so hard to find at all for so many people, is something that you can have in such abundance. I like the ambition, the audacity.
The quote forms the basis of my new coaching question: ‘If you were going to have a day when you felt you could die from an overdose of satisfaction, what would that day be like?’
The answer might focus on what psychologists call subjective wellbeing, adopting a hedonistic approach by doing more of the stuff you like and avoiding the things that bug you. Or, the answer might owe more to psychological wellbeing, a model developed in 1989 by Carol Ryff. It looks at wellbeing on a deeper level and outlines six component parts, such as self-acceptance, purpose in life and personal growth.
Whichever model might apply, and whatever the answer might be, becoming aware of what satisfaction really means to you is a vital first step to achieving it. And arranging your life so that you can get somewhere close to sharing Dali’s sentiments, might bring some unexpected and very fulfilling outcomes.