I lead a lot of YPO forum retreats and, I inevitably get around to asking leaders about what it means to be successful. “What does success look like to you?” I ask. The answers I receive can be surprising, as well as enlightening. For most, the answer to that question includes the accumulation of wealth, status or power, or all three. Yet I sense little joy or pleasure in those who answer me in that way.

Those who seem happiest with their professional and personal lives always point to something else; some other something that is often difficult for them to describe, that has intruded into their well-made plans for success, and that has delivered joy and happiness they had not anticipated. This “something else” usually includes less focus on career, and more focus on family, friends, introspection, service, or spirituality – or all five.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

The Law of Unintended Consequences often alters the best laid plans. Because of our inability to perceive the vast array of possible long-term effects of any action we may take, we can never plan for all possible outcomes.

Yet, the Law of Unintended Consequences gets a bad rap, with everyone thinking that it leads to nothing but negative outcomes. That’s just not true! I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve thought, “I didn’t see THAT happening, but I’m sure glad it did!” When you allow for providence to affect your actions and decisions, your foresight will be rewarded. This is the only way to achieve balance between work and life.

So, as you make plans for the future, be prepared for unexpected results; both positive and negative. Catch yourself if you think the universe is “out to get you”. Instead, make a choice to look for the positive and be accepting of reality in this moment. You may be pleasantly surprised how much of it is good, instead of bad.