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Success vs. Fulfillment

A question I’ve always asked my coachees and recruitment candidates is, “what does success look like to you?” I’ve got all sorts of answers from landing a particular job, getting a specific award, or having a Bermuda vacation for two months. 

I look back and realize that this question is wrong in itself. These days, I rephrase that question as “what would you find most fulfilling?” I understand that for most people, success and fulfillment are synonymous, and once you are successful, you’ll be fulfilled!! On the surface, it does make sense. Let’s reflect on this for a moment! How long did you feel accomplished for when you landed that job? Few days? Maybe a few weeks? How long were you happy for after that long vacation? 

So should we stop chasing the goals? No, but it’s essential to understand the difference. Success is the accomplishment of an aim or objective. In contrast, fulfillment is a purpose-driven journey of self-discovery and growth where your inner world (vs. extrinsic rewards) drives your satisfaction levels. I do think the biggest trap in this definition is the word “purpose.” When we hear this word, we automatically think it is a BIG FAT AUDACIOUS purpose like saving humanity or saving planet earth. Even a sense of purpose towards something that you feel passionately about can bring fulfillment. As Denis Waitley said:

“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment. It is in the happiness of pursuit.”

There are no short-cuts to find fulfillment as it’s the journey in itself. However, a few things have helped me in working with my clients:

Know Thyself: It all starts with knowing yourself. We spend time understanding our friends, our significant other, our kids, but rarely we spend time identifying what makes us happy. What is it that gives you a feeling of contentment, joy, and a sense of purpose? Once you find what truly makes you happy, incorporate that in your life and work. Expand your horizon and perspective to test what resonates with you the most.

Reflection Time: When life is on auto-pilot, it is hard to think about what matters, and it’s essential to take time out and see if the life you are leading matches your definition of a fulfilled life. Focusing on the future is excellent, but make sure you are grateful for what you have right NOW.                  

You can’t change others – Don’t think you are responsible for changing the world-Be agile and focus on your positive changes. If you change powerful enough, then your tribe will follow.

Power of NOW – Don’t be a victim of constant thinking! Meditation helps, but if meditating on a pillow is not for you, go out in nature and observe the beauty around you. Many questions get answered when you are in silence around the beauty of nature.

Cliched but a significant one, Gratitude – Many researches have shown a direct correlation between gratitude and a sense of fulfillment. With gratitude comes a sense of well being that helps us achieve our goals more efficiently. It is true the happier people are more successful and not the other way!

Success is great, but it’s sweeter when accompanied by joy and a sense of fulfillment. As Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

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