Finding happiness in unexpected places

I attended the Time CNN Fortune Global Forum conference in Cape Town, South Africa at the end of June. The focus of theconference was the potential for economic growth in Africa.

It’s the first time I have been in the same room with people who are important historical figures, such as Francois Pienaar, the captain of the 1995 South African rugby team, Mrs. Graça Machal, human rights activist, and President Clinton.

Each person was mesmerizing and captivating in his or her own way.

As I attended each presentation, and met other attendees during the breaks, I found myself talking about all sorts of things not directly related to my work. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed this until I was telling my husband Michael about the conference.

“It was amazing and a little bit overwhelming,” I said. “At one point, Mrs. Graça Machal came up to the group I was standing with and put her arm around my shoulder. I felt like I was getting a hug from history.”

“And, the women at this conference,” I continued. “They were spectacular. The African women especially—each one is making a significant difference in their country—by creating economic opportunities with a focus on social justice.”

For the three days of the conference, I thought very little about my work. Yes, everyone I met asked me what I did. This was the only “work” activity I did for three days: I did not worry about catching up on e-mails or working on my open projects. I decided to just be in the moment and this had a very unexpected outcome: I came back to work so motivated to do more.

Let me explain it this way: as I met people who were clearly impacting the world, not just their company, I realized that the impact of my work was also important; that having an impact mattered to me. Will I impact the world the same way as Mrs. Graça Machal or President Clinton? No. To be honest, that’s never been my aspiration. But doing something that matters is important for me to be happy at work and to be happy as a person.

This insight came from going outside of my day-to-day work. I can only encourage you to go outside of your own work to be happy at work.

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