Last month, I was dropping my daughter off at college for the first time. While I had prepared for this for the past 18 years, and longer (she is my second daughter to go to college), I still had no idea that I would feel the way I felt on that drive home. At that moment, I realized it was the end of a phase in our relationship. We were entering into a new one. And it got me thinking about how I lived during the past 18 years. Had I been making the most of it? Had I been living well?

And then this catchy song by Switchfoot called “Live It Well” came on the radio.

It goes a little something like this:

Life is short; Wanna live it well
One life, one story to tell

While there may be a number of ways to interpret the beautiful words of this song, at that moment it spoke to me about our own search for the meaning of our story in life.

What do the studies say about living life well?

Living well has been an elusive concept that’s haunted many for centuries. How would you define “living well”? Some examples I can think of include:

One study of particular interest was conducted over a period of 75 years and concluded that a life lived well is one that puts love above all things, recognizes that there is more than power or money, and values connection.

When Purpose in Life and Business Align

Whenever I talk to business leaders about what living life well means relative to their businesses, they can give me a pretty definitive and well thought out explanation with clear purpose. But when we start to talk about them individually, a lack of clarity often emerges. So when someone has a true purpose in their life’s work, you can tell immediately.

Have you ever spoken with someone whose professional and personal purposes aligned perfectly? Often these are people who had a call early on in life, whether to help people, or to create something permanent through art or manufacturing, or to solve a problem. These aren’t people who take their work home with them. They’re people who take their life to work. They’re not only living life well, with a meaning and purpose, but they’re also working well with purpose and meaning. That’s the sweet spot I strive for continually. How about you?

It’s Not Just Personal

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you already know that I believe how you live personally is directly related to how you lead professionally. It’s impossible to think about true leadership in any way that is detached from “living life well.”  I’m not talking about kind-of, sort-of doing life.  I’m not talking about doing life okay, either. I’m talking about doing life well because your life and other lives depend on it!

Many of us today are not aware of the doing life well dream and how it could be the fuel that allows us to engage our day to day in a way that is nothing short of amazing, in spite of the circumstances and the ups and downs of life.

I for one, lived most of my life looking for something and working hard to get it without knowing exactly what I was looking for, and therefore I never found it!  I found what others said was living life well, what my parents thought, my friends, Wall Street, my neighbors … You get the idea.

All that searching led me toward a big dead end. And of course, like everyone, I was also busy and that led to me failing to be intentional about “living life well’ for myself. I was chasing a dream that was not my own, and that is a sad place.

The Way You Live Is the Foundation to Authentic Leadership

Today I want to contend that the desire to do life well and with meaning, that core value of making a difference where we are planted, is a foundation to leadership.

Some examples of how we lead better when we start living well include:

  • We’re more authentic
  • We have more empathy toward our team
  • We’re better able to create and inspire passion
  • We innovate in business, because business becomes an extension of our life
  • We reimagine our surroundings, and that allows us to be more creative

It’s about finding your own internal little light that allows you to move forward in spite of circumstances and setbacks. That internal light transcends beyond your ability to see, hear and feel.  It’s not a light that can be diminished by perceived obstacles.  It’s not deterred by fear or boundaries. It’s a light that allows you and I to step into a higher space, and moves us forward to a place that transforms us and those around us. This is the unconventional definition of leadership.

What can you do today to start living life well? Write a list of the three things that mean “living well” to you. Then ask yourself, are you doing them? Now that you’ve asked that question and thought about it, share that with a friend or someone you love. Engage this topic together on a regular basis.