As coaches, we work with a lot of people who want to feel more fulfilled in their job (and life, for that matter). When we question them further, however, it turns out that the word “fulfillment” is often hard to define.
So what is job fulfillment, then? What makes you feel energized and motivated and deeply satisfied in your career? Is it using your strengths? Doing work you enjoy? Being part of a team? Becoming financially independent.
All of those things play a part, to be sure. But there’s been one overarching pattern we’ve seen in almost every client we’ve worked with:
Fulfillment comes from doing something you love to make a difference in a meaningful way. That sounds pretty vague and unhelpful, right? So…
Let’s break that phrase down into three chunks:
- “Doing something you love” — some of you already know what you love doing (maybe you’ve known since you were 5 years old), but most people are still trying to figure that out. If you’re in that majority, then check out some of our older posts about following your passion and figuring out what energizes you. Keep in mind that what you’re good at and what you love don’t always overlap, so let go of the “Well, I’m good at math so I guess I should be an accountant” mentality (unless you really DO love accounting) and focus on what you actually enjoy the most.
- “Making a difference” doesn’t have to mean working at a non-profit, giving all your money to charity, or rebuilding houses in a third world country (although it certainly can, if that’s your deal). For some people, selling their handmade jewelry or helping clients develop an authentic brand feels like a positive way to be of service and give back. The key here is that you feel like your work is impacting others by solving a problem, spreading positivity, or improving lives, in one way or another.
- The “meaningful way” part is where many people get tripped up, but it’s also the place where you can really personalize this concept. Perhaps you already work at a place that’s helping improve lives or solve problems in some way, but you don’t feel personally invested in the company’s mission. Or maybe you don’t get to work directly with the people you’re helping, so you never see the final impact of your work. Even if you logically know that you’re making a difference for someone, if it doesn’t feel meaningful to you, then you ultimately won’t get that sense of fulfillment.
Allow yourself to be creative when considering what feels meaningful to you. What do you regularly help friends/family with? What do people thank you for most often? When was the last time you felt like you made someone’s day? Really think about these questions to get clear on how you’re already making a difference on a regular basis — in a way that feels energizing to you and them.
Here are a few questions to help you determine if you’re meeting all three parts of the fulfillment equation:
- How is your work impacting others?
- How invested do you feel in your company or team’s big-picture mission?
- When in your life do you feel so creative, passionate, or centered that you totally lose track of time?
- How often do you get to see or experience the results of your work?
- How much interaction do you have with your teammates, clients, customers, or end users?
- Where in your life do you feel most energized, valuable, or satisfied?
We’d love to read your answers and hear your insights! Write your responses in the comments below.
Kristen & Rachel