Photo Credit: Lidya Nada,

Written by Peter Matthies, Founder of the Conscious Business Institute
July 3, 2019

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a multi-millionaire or working two jobs to make ends meet; there’s one hidden driver that determines whether you enjoy life, whether you’re engaged and energized at work, or whether–despite all riches–you experience struggle or frustration.

As a former Venture Capitalist, I lived a cushy lifestyle, stayed at five-star hotels in Bermuda and enjoyed transatlantic upgrades to first class. And yet, when I returned home and put my head on the pillow at night, the same persistent question kept bubbling up: “Isn’t there a better way to work and live? A way that’s more fulfilling, meaningful–and, yes–happy?”

In the past 20 years of working with business leaders in companies of all sizes–from one to over 100,000 employees–I can’t tell you how many expressed to me the same deep yearning for purpose and fulfillment; to work in a way where they can finally relax and expand into their authenticity. Look at the research: 85% of the global workforce is disengaged, ultimately asking for a better way to get ahead in life.

“What if you had one thing that could change everything?” I ask my clients. “One simple tool.”

Essence: Our Deep Human Drivers

Your Essences are exactly that. As I became aware of my Essences, I knew that this would be a pathway that could transform my life–which wouldn’t only improve personal fulfillment, energy, and happiness, but also had the power to create workplaces where people are engaged and energized.

So, what are Essences? Essences are the feeling states you experience when you do or have something. You may think that this doesn’t sound very dramatic. However, I want you to consider this: life’s really a “feeling” experience, not a “doing” or “having” experience.

As you get your Essences (or feeling experiences) fulfilled, your life will be meaningful and enjoyable. And as you don’t, even as you do or have “things” (get a promotion, own a big house, have a family, or a few million in the bank) your life may lack happiness and fulfillment, thus, causing you to continue the chase.    

Most likely, many people suggested to you that striving for material outcomes would make you happy: a respectable degree, good job, family, maybe a bunch of money. Clearly, this approach is flawed, because it would mean that someone with more stuff would be happier than anyone with less stuff.

For many years, I’ve chased material outcomes, thinking that these would ultimately yield the Essences I was hoping to get. “If I have ten million in the bank, I’ll be happy and free,” I told myself. “If I get the next promotion, I can relax a bit.” If we follow this approach, we’re essentially grabbing into a big bag of sweets, hoping that we’ll pick the English toffee.

Becoming conscious of your Essences–the underlying drivers for all your empowered decisions–would be like grabbing into a bag that contains only English toffee. You’d be able to make conscious choices, knowing what you’ll get beforehand.

Four Reasons Why Essences Are Critical

To leave you with some understanding of why Essences can be powerful, consider the following:

  1. We usually strive our entire life to get somewhere: make a bunch of money, find a perfect relationship, or get a big house by the beach. While many of the material outcomes remain beyond our reach, we keep chasing the carrot, exhausting ourselves along the way.
  2. Once we’ve reached the desired outcome, research shows that we enjoy a short period of elation, satisfaction, or happiness, before we fall back to our regular state of being. Research suggests, we’re more like thermostats: we have a set point for happiness and external events don’t influence it as much as we think.
  3. Nothing prevents us from experiencing our Essences right here and now. If you want ten million dollars in your account to feel freedom, you can experience the same feeling or state of freedom by taking a walk through the woods or meditating. Your body and brain don’t distinguish how the feeling of freedom’s created.
  4. This means that you can nurture your Essences by putting concrete things into your calendar that fulfill your Essences. If you want more freedom, take a 15-minute break and enjoy lounging in a coffee shop. If you want more beauty, bring a bouquet of flowers into your office. If you want more connection, reach out to one person a day. As we experience more of our Essences, we “become” more of them. Our life experience changes, and from within, we’re changing the set point on our emotional thermostat.

Essences can have an equally powerful effect on businesses. For years, organizations are going to great lengths to increase engagement–from ping-pong tables in the kitchen to gym memberships and free Greek yogurt–without much success. Over the past 18 years, the needle’s only moved a few percentage points; driven not by perks, but by creating workplaces where people “feel” better.

Where they get their Essences fulfilled.

With Essences being the deeper drivers of every employee, imagine the energy of a team that comes to the office knowing their Essences will get fulfilled.

Take Your Essences For A Test Drive


To put this into practice, become clear about your Essences. Pick three things in your life that you’d absolutely love to achieve. Maybe the house by the beach, a fulfilling relationship, or a couple million in the bank. Imagine “being there” and then ask yourself: what are the 10-15 feeling states I experience in each of these areas? Write them down and notice the overlap of Essences.

No matter the area of your life, you’re ultimately driven by a bouquet of 10-15 Essences.

This is enormously helpful, because rather than making your decisions on some anticipated future outcome, you can now make choices based on these 10-15 Essences. Then, take stock of your life.

Notice that wherever you feel frustrated or dissatisfied, your Essences aren’t getting fulfilled, and that you feel a sense of flow and happiness wherever they are being fulfilled.

Lastly, find small things you can put into your calendar to fulfill your Essences on a daily basis. Take a walk in the park to experience freedom.

Share something meaningful with a person if you want more connection. Give appreciation to someone if you want to experience more of it (since you can only give what you have), or schedule a lunch once a week with a colleague to speak about something that fulfills you.

Take it for a test drive and see what happens. And all the while, enjoy the journey.

Hear more from Peter Matthies in his interview on the One Idea Away Podcast!

Photo Credit: Lidya Nada,