4 simple strategies for more fulfilment in your career and life
Have you noticed when you meet people who find their work fulfilling, they have a different energy about them?
Whether it’s the sparkle in their eyes, genuine joy in their smile, the calm and peace they radiate, or a clear focus and purpose when they speak to you...they are lit up by what they do and it shows.
In contrast, so many people seem perpetually ‘busy’ and stressed by their work. Outwardly they appear ‘successful’, with a good job that pays well, in an organisation that others would love to work for. Their schedule is packed and their days productive...yet they don’t seem happy. Maybe you can relate to this?
As life and business strategist Tony Robbins declared,
“Success without fulfilment is the ultimate failure.”
If you’d like to re-balance your achievement with greater fulfilment, this post is for you.
two types of dissatisfied Achievers
There are two types of dissatisfied achievers I’ve come across that you may recognise too.
The first are achievement addicts.
These people are continually pushing themselves and working hard to attain, achieve or accomplish more. They love goals, challenges and stretching themselves. Some come across as unambiguously ambitious in their words and actions, while others are quiet achievers.
Eventually, achievement addicts may find that achieving their goals isn’t always as satisfying as they imagined it’d be. When they achieve what they once considered a big goal - perhaps even an ‘impossible’ dream - they look around and ask, “Is this all there is?” So it’s only moments before they’re off again in pursuit of a bigger goal, seeking the next hit or adrenaline rush.
Underlying this may lie the belief that more success is required for greater satisfaction, leading to a continual quest to climb higher and higher. Although growth is an important driver of fulfilment, ask yourself whether it’s motivated by a deep-rooted fear that you are not enough or not worthy unless you’re working hard or have the status bestowed by ‘success’.
The second type of dissatisfied achiever is on ‘achievement autopilot’, as Danielle LaPorte aptly described our cultural default.
These achievers don’t appear as driven or focussed as ‘achievement addicts’. They achieve primarily because it’s what society, their parents or their peers expect. They work hard because they’re committed to excellence and quality and believe in doing the best they can, or perhaps they feel pressured to keep striving to achieve security. But they’re unsure of their purpose or passion, so despite putting in a lot of hard work, they may feel like they’re ‘drifting’ through life, a little lost, waiting for inspiration to strike.
I’d place my former self in this camp. (My partner once told me I was the ‘laziest ambitious person’ he knew. I don’t think of myself as ambitious, but I’ll concede the lazy part!)
four strategies for more fulfilment
Whether you’re an achievement addict or on achievement autopilot, here are four strategies to help you experience greater fulfilment.
You might think they sound obvious or simple and you’re probably right – but as always, the value is in moving beyond information to implementation. So I invite you to start by choosing one of the following strategies and giving it a real go.
1. Untangle your identity from your roles
We all play many roles in our lives: daughter/son, sister/brother, partner/spouse, friend, employee, manager, leader, and so on. These roles and associated behaviours are often shaped by rules, obligations and expectations from others. Sometimes they may feel like labels that have been assigned to us.
It’s common for your identity to become intertwined with your employment given that most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work. If you’re a high achiever, it’s especially easy for your ‘self’ or your identity to conflate with your work role, so this becomes the primary way you define yourself and understand your position relative to others: “I’m a lawyer / banker / consultant / entrepreneur” etc. After all, our brains like to categorise, and upon meeting someone new, often one of the first things we’re curious about is ‘what do you do?’
The challenge arises when there is no separation between your self and your role, so your self-worth becomes tied to the prestige of your job title or success in your role. Any so-called failure in your work can lead to a devastating feeling of failure as a human being.
Another danger is when your job or any of your other roles change, as they inevitably will, either voluntarily or involuntarily. This can trigger an identity crisis or a sense of losing yourself.
But it’s important to remember that your work is not your worth. You are more than your job title. And measuring your worth based on others’ perceptions of you - how high profile, important or influential they deem you to be - leaves you continually looking outward for validation and reliant on others you can’t control.
So, who are you, beyond your roles?
To explore this question further, you can:
- Spend some time reflecting on who you are and articulating what matters most to you and how you want to show up in the world.
- Write a list of 30 (or 100!) things you like about yourself aside from your professional achievements. If you find it too hard to name things you like about yourself, you can start with things you know about yourself
- Actively cultivate interests beyond your professional role. This could be cooking, fitness, art, or anything else that captures your curiosity. Get engaged with it - go from thinking about it or reading about it to actually doing something with it, whether that’s taking a class to try something new, volunteering, or getting involved with communities that share your interest.
2. bring yourself to work
If coming to work feels like putting on a mask, try bringing more of your authentic self and personality into your work. This doesn’t have to mean radically transforming your job.
It could be as simple as identifying your interests, your talents and your strengths and then finding new or different ways to use or express them in your role. Research shows that using your strengths at work will help you feel more energised, engaged, confident and less stressed.
It’s also about understanding what makes work meaningful for you and finding ways to enable that in your current role.
What makes work meaningful or energising for you, and what small step can you take to enable that to happen more often?
3. Clarify why you want what you want
There’s nothing inherently wrong with achievement.
But I encourage you to ask yourself:
‘Why do I want what I want?’
Take time to define success for yourself. So many of us are implicitly following a life formula which assumes:
Hard work = Success = Money = Happiness / Freedom / Recognition etc.
It can be a long, hard slog before you get to the ‘happiness’ checkpoint.
Alternatively, if you can get clear on what ‘success’ feels like for you, you can take action to generate those feelings in your life now, rather than waiting til you’ve achieved that undefined milestone of ‘success’.
As Danielle LaPorte says,
“Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have.”
For me right now, ‘success’ feels like joy, freedom and ease. What about you?
4. Cultivate gratitude
Practising gratitude can have significant and lasting effects on your psychological state, physical health and social relationships.
Gratitude helps unlock joy - studies have shown that people who regularly practise gratitude can increase their happiness by up to 25%. It can also help you feel more connected with others, which research indicates is one way to bring more meaning into your life.
The key is to be intentional and develop a regular habit so that you increase your gratitude across four dimensions: intensity, frequency, span and density.
What are you grateful for today?
Which of these four strategies will you try first? I’d love to know how you go – leave a comment below.
If you have a friend or colleague who wants to feel more fulfilled in their career or life, please share this post. It might be just what they need to inspire them to take action.