Originally published at elephantjournal.com
So many of my clients talk about this elusive things called “work fulfillment.” They often feel like they’re lacking it and really, really want to find it.
When asked, they can’t put their finger on exactly what it is.
Why are we so intent on finding this ambiguous thing we can’t even define? Because we trust that feeling fulfilled will give us the contentment and satisfaction we’re looking for in our work lives.
While that might be true, many of us are looking in the wrong places. Here are three steps you can take to experience greater work fulfillment.
1. Recognize that nothing external will make us feel more fulfilled.
The first step to greater fulfillment is to be able to recognize that nothing outside of you will make you more fulfilled. Many people search for fulfillment outside of themselves. They think that more money, better co-workers or more stimulating projects will make them feel more excited about their work.
If we’re looking for some external thing to fill us up, we’re never going to find it.
There are many changes that can take place externally that could positively affect us—but for a more fundamental change, we need to start from the inside out.
All of our emotions originate from inside us. Sometimes we look at our emotions as if they are caused by external events, but in reality, everything that happens outside of us is neutral. We assign meaning to our experiences, which in turn makes them feel “good” or “bad.”
This is why two people can share the same experience—like looking at a piece of art—but have completely different feelings about it.
Everything is subject to personal interpretation. If we think that a particular situation was bad, it may make us feel angry or sad.
If we think that our work is boring and meaningless, we will never really feel fulfilled.
2. Get out of your own way.
We all have huge potential energy that remains untapped because we allow our egos to get in the way. Our egos stop us from doing the work we’re drawn to because we fear we’re not good enough, smart enough—or simply not enough. These internal blocks prevent us from experiencing fulfillment. When we’re able to get out of our heads and just focus on serving others, that energy is able to flow through us more readily. It’s only then that we can serve the people we work with (and work for) more fully and completely, allowing us to have a greater sense of fulfillment.
3. Make a contribution.
If you’re not doing work that you think is benefiting other people in some way, not only are you unlikely to feel fulfilled, but you also may feel unhappy or discontented—especially if the work is out of alignment with your values.
People feel the most fulfilled when they recognize that they are making a meaningful contribution to the world. It’s possible to do this regardless of your line of work. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or you work for a company, if you send the message that you’re providing something of benefit to the world, it’s going to be much easier to feel fulfilled by your work.
For example, I worked with a young clothing designer who had no interest in leaving fashion, but was seeking a company that had a greater mission than just making clothing. She ended up finding a job with a company that had a social mission, so that in a round about way, her work was providing some good for society as a whole. Her work didn’t significantly change when she switched companies, but her new company’s focus was enough to make her feel like her work had a greater purpose.
Starting to generate even a small amount of fulfillment on your own opens up more opportunities to feel fulfillment in your work and life. Don’t wait for outside factors to bring you the feeling of fulfillment that you could be working toward on your own right now.