“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
One definition of fulfillment is “the attainment of a satisfying and worthwhile life well lived.”
Alan Gewirth defines fulfillment as “carrying to fruition one’s deepest desires or one’s worthiest capacities.”
Fulfillment is powerful stuff.
And yet, we can easily spend a great deal of time, on a whole lot of things, and still miss the boat on self-fulfillment. Sadly, it’s all too easy to throw our moments away.
When we follow the path of fulfillment we create more meaningful moments, we become more of what we’re capable of, and our work lives and our personal lives hang together better.
Best of all, we achieve a peaceful calm.
In The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership, Joelle K. Jay shares how so many things happen when you find fulfillment.
You Make a Difference
Give your gifts in a way that also gives back to you.
“So many leaders long to leave a legacy. In The Eight Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, Stephen Covey writes, ‘Deep within each one of us there is an inner longing to live a life of greatness and contribution — to really matter, to really make a difference.’ Bolman and Deal, authors of Leading with Soul, agree: ‘Each of us has a special contribution to make if we can shoulder the personal and spiritual work needed to discover and take responsibility for our own gifts.’ When you know what fulfills you, you are able to give of your gifts in a way that also gives back to you.”
You Feel Rewarded
Nothing pays you back like fulfillment. And when you add fulfillment to your game, you expand your realm of potential rewards, including your intrinsic rewards.
“Many leaders are well rewarded for their work, but they also pay a price in long hours and extra stress — an unfortunate trade-off given the well-documented research that money simply doesn’t equal happiness. When you find fulfillment, you find gratification in both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. You still get to keep the traditional benefits you earn for your work. Money is motivating. So are promotions and appreciation and power. But in order for your work to not just pay you back but actually drive you forward, you also need to experience the inner rewards of satisfaction and joy.”
You Quality of Life Improves
Life’s better when you follow your path of fulfillment. All the pieces fit together better when you know what makes you feel fulfilled.
“When you know what fulfills you, you can make a conscious effort to design your life around it. Then your work fits into your personal life, as well as the other way around. Your professional and personal lives can blend into one as you find contentment in both. You may still be busy. Fulfillment is not about whether your life meets someone else’s preconceived idea of a balanced life. But when you look across your life, you feel not just successful, but also at ease with the choices you’ve made.”
You Preserve Your Talent
When you live your purpose with a passion it not only brings you to life, it attracts others.
“Business journals in the last several years have been replete with stories about attracting and retaining employees. I often wonder how much time, effort, and expense would be saved if endeavors to develop strong leaders would focus on engaging the leaders they already have.
In an article entitled ‘Moments of Greatness,’ University of Michigan business professor Robert Quinn wonders, ‘As leaders, sometimes we’re truly ‘on’ and sometimes we’re not. Why is that? What separates the episodes of excellence from those of mere competence?’ Bill George proposes one answer in his book, Authentic Leadership: ‘Authentic leaders demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practice their values consistently, and lead with their hearts as well as their heads. They know who they are.’ When you find fulfillment, you don’t get burned out; you get fired up. You put your talent to work, but you’re the one who feels rewarded. You experience those moments of greatness. You also get to lead a great life.”
You Feel at Peace
Fulfillment brings a sense of inner peace.
“When you live in accordance with your values, even when you have to make the occasional sacrifice, you do so with full awareness of what’s important to you and make every effort to honor those values in your life. As authors Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal point out, ‘soul is not something one leaves at home.’ You do not have to check yourself at the door.”
It’s the Secret to a Happy Life
The secret to a happy life is fulfillment and the secret to fulfillment is to know what makes you feel fulfilled.
“Even if you generally feel happy and satisfied, it is still critical to maintain that sense of meaning. Fulfillment is not just a remedy for the disillusioned. It is the secret to a happy life. Even if you are already interested, enthusiastic, engaged, goal driven, and achieving by all means, understand why! Then you’ll never lose yourself on the way to success.”
Fulfillment is a path of giving your best where you have your best to give and it’s a way to change the world, or at least your world, with your unique gifts.
You feel more fulfillment when you share your unique gifts with the world in a way that makes you come alive.
As Martin Seligman says, “The Meaningful Life is about using your strengths in the service of something that is bigger than you are.” And as Clayton Christensen puts it, the way he measures his life is “the people whose lives I’ve touched.”
In my experience, ultimate fulfillment comes from a healthy blend and combination of living your values, realizing your potential, giving your best where you have your best to give in the service of others or in service of “the greater good”, and practicing an attitude of gratitude.
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Image by Donna Muccio.