The Recipe for a Satisfying Life

Published: September 8, 2021

Some people seem happy all the time. Whether at work or play, they move from event to event with a bounce in their step and a twinkle in their eye. It’s not that adversity doesn’t come their way – it’s that they manage it with grace. Is this simply because they were born with a cheery disposition? Have they just faced less trauma than their peers who appear filled with consternation? Perhaps they’ve developed a better arsenal of coping skills. Or maybe they’ve discovered the elusive secret to a satisfying life.

Let’s consider a recipe that anyone can try. There are three ingredients: welcoming trouble, listening to feedback, and taking stewardship.

Welcoming Trouble: Driven by the insurance industry, the behavioral health industry has spent the last three decades teaching patients to make symptoms go away. Some try medicine to lift depression or lower anxiety. Others learn cognitive-behavior-therapy techniques since changing your thinking changes your feelings. Either way, human services experts now realize that alleviating symptoms only delays addressing the problems at their roots. Look the problem square in the eye and take on the arduous task of solving it.

Listening to Feedback: Most continuous improvement models are based on some variation of a plan-do-study-act cycle. Make a plan. Execute it. Study the results. Act on the feedback to revise the plan. Repeat eternally. Each stage of the cycle calls upon a different competency. Planning is a cognitive exercise. Doing requires initiative. Studying is more than research – it requires listening to the world’s feedback in a way that neutralizes confirmation bias. Acting on that learning takes courage. Cognition, initiative, listening, and courage are our key competencies.

Taking Stewardship. It’s your life. Each of our personal ecosystems has unique sets of enablers and obstacles. Some of them are outside of our control. Some of them, however, are ours to decide. Begin with the W’s – who, what, where and when. Who, specifically, do you wish to occupy your inner circle of family, friends, and colleagues? Some people drain your energy while others provide fuel. Prioritize those who fuel. What, specifically, would you most like to do when you are with these people? Whether work or play, how you spend the fleeting gift of time matters. Where, specifically, do you wish to be in the world? Is your home safe and comfortable? Is your workplace friendly and stimulating? Have you selected a geography with the right climate and amenities? When, specifically, do you work and play? Some of us are most focused and creative at dawn while others come alive after midnight. Listen to your biorhythms.

Here’s the challenge of today’s blog post. Be mindful of welcoming trouble, listening to feedback, and taking stewardship for one month. Do a pre/post comparison. If the management of your life hasn’t become more effective, regardless of the adversities the world throws at you, write me directly at for further conversation. Together, we can find your recipe for a satisfying life.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.