What does fulfillment mean to you? Here's my take on the subject.
I think about fulfillment a lot lately, specifically about what it takes for me to feel fulfilled, and how I can maintain that feeling through the ebbs and flows of my personal and professional life.
I don’t have all the answers but my main purpose in writing this piece is to reassure you that you are not alone in the challenges you may face with personal and professional fulfillment.
We all go through these challenges and the trick is to understand what maximizes your fulfillment levels and continue doing those things as long as you can.
How I think about fulfillment.
I tend to think about fulfillment in binary terms, which is to say that I am either fulfilled or I am not — there isn’t much of a middle ground for me on this. This may not be true for others but feeling fulfilled is nevertheless very important to my quality of life.
A higher level of fulfillment also has a lot of tangential benefits including improved health (i.e., I get sick less often), happier personal relationships, and greater productivity at work. I also think I become funnier when I am feeling fulfilled but my friends and co-workers might say otherwise.
But what does this look like in real life
I feel energized in the morning looking forward to taking on the challenges of the day. I may even make it to the gym for a workout before I get into the office (I am normally an evening gym — goer). At work I view issues with more optimism (not something that comes naturally to me) because I understand why the issues matter and what I need to do to solve them. This is not surprising, as a lot of the research suggests that more fulfilled people tend to be more productive at work. I am no exception.
But most importantly, my fulfillment manifests in my personal and professional relationships. I find that I am more engaged with the people I love, more enthusiastic about hanging out with my friends and generally more excited about the people I am with. I also have better conversations with my colleagues that sometimes generate awesome insights and generally more creative solutions.
Keeping my fulfillment levels up.
Counter — intuitively I try to turn my brain off from the minutiae of the week (normally on Sundays) and instead focus on the big picture “why” of the thing that I am working on (if you read Simon Sinek, I’m a big fan).
This is not easy to do but with intention and practice I am getting better at this; it also helps that I have people around me who encourage me to take a step back and think about the big picture of whatever it is I am doing.
The single most helpful tactic I use to look at the big picture is to tell myself that things will ebb and flow on the path to success, but as long as I know where we need to end up that is what matters.
So expect the ebbs and flows in your personal and professional lives (they are inevitable) but don’t lose sight of where you want to end up. If you do find that you are having trouble finding where you are going, take a step back. That’s the most important thing that you can do at that moment.
I also meditate. I know this is timeless advice (at least for the last few years) shared by people more qualified to talk about it than me, but meditation really works. I use an app called Ananda which has some preset meditations based on your goal for the meditation. I have been using this app for the past six months, and it really seems works (yes it could be a placebo, but so far so good).
Find your source of fulfillment and protect it
Fulfillment means different things each of us, and our paths to achieving fulfillment are necessarily different. Fulfillment doesn’t just come from your work. Your family, friends or simply the people you interact with on a daily basis (who may not be your colleagues) can be your source of fulfillment as well.
Just make sure you know what where your fulfillment comes from and do everything in your power to protect it. When all is said and done, the little things will not matter in the grand scheme of your life. But you’ll always remember how you feel.