How to Find Fulfillment When Work is Frustrating
Leadership is frustrating sometimes. Other times it’s fulfilling.
How do leaders find fulfillment?
Fulfillment isn’t a job title. I know people who have powerful job titles who aren’t fulfilled.
Achievement doesn’t promise fulfillment. People who achieve great things commit suicide just like the rest of us.
How to find fulfillment in leadership:
#1. Ego seeks fulfillment in the wrong places.
I’ve had jobs that made me miserable. But lack of fulfillment was about me, not the job. I thought I was more talented than people who had jobs above mine.
I wasn’t fulfilled because I thought I deserved better.
Feeling like you deserve better kills fulfillment.
Conceited people aren’t fulfilled. When you’re full of yourself, there’s no room for fulfillment.
#2. Fulfillment is a way of seeing.
Job Monkey reports there are 1.5 million deer collisions every year in Pennsylvania. Every major highway in Pennsylvania has dead animals on the side of the road, mostly deer. Imagine you manage a team that collects roadkill. Could you be fulfilled?
You might be a miserable person who deserves a better job, or you might be a person who makes the world more beautiful.
See yourself through the lens of your contribution.
Mike Rowe refers to picking up roadkill in this TED talk. (12) Learning from dirty jobs | Mike Rowe – YouTube
#3. Fulfillment is social.
Fulfillment is easier when people admire your work. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s easier.
When you admire people’s work, you create environments where fulfillment is more likely.
#4. Fulfillment is internal, not external.
Fulfillment is about the way you think about yourself, not your geography or environment. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl demonstrates how to find meaning by living for something bigger than yourself, even in a Nazi death camp.
300 words won’t solve the mystery of fulfillment. What might you add?
What drains fulfillment?
How do leaders find fulfillment? Help others find fulfillment?
The approach taken by a lot of people is to accept that the “day job” doesn’t provide fulfilment, but provides the means for you to be fulfilled outside work (money, contacts, etc).
Thanks Mitch. I suppose many spend a large portion of life providing the means to be fulfilled. I wonder why that couldn’t be fulfilling?
I agree. Pride and envy, two sides of the same coin, steal joy, contentment, and fulfillment. If I think I deserve better, my ego, pride steals my satisfaction. But if I think you deserve worse, that attitude of envy is toxic. This will steal my joy AND yours! When I see myself as part of the team and trust God to provide, I can find joy and satisfaction in any circumstance. Thanks, Dan!
Thanks Pete. You’re addition of thinking others deserve worse expands my thinking and exposes a real danger to fulfillment. Much appreciated.
Very insightful post, Dan! Always thinking we deserve better can lead to constant frustration, while understanding that we can be better leads to personal growth. On a related note, pursuing imposed goals can also lead to the lack of satisfaction you mentioned — even after achieving enviable titles or income, especially if they were not our goals! I think being true to yourself and setting goals that are important to you is a key part of finding fulfillment in work, leadership, and life. Another way of saying fulfillment is internal — not external. All the best.
Thanks Paul. I see what you mean. Feeling like someone else controls our life lacks fulfillment. I wonder if it would be good, in some cases, that we make organizational goals more like our own goals. I know they can’t be synonymous. Perhaps if we just align organizational goals with ours it would be better.
Please don’t think the rest of the post was not thought provoking, but the line that stuck with me the most was your closing, “300 words won’t solve the mystery of fulfillment. What might you add?” It reminds me that others may not feel as useful when I think I have just provided them with the answer, so I forget to ask for their thoughts! I am willing to bet I just killed their sense of fulfillment for that task! Thanks for that reminder!
Thanks Mary-Frances. I could add that line after every post. I’m glad it worked for you today.
Typically I just put something out there and let it stand on it’s own. Today it seemed more needful.
“Fulfillment is a way of seeing, is social and it is internal.” “Job Monkey reports there are 1.5 million deer collisions every year in Pennsylvania. Every major highway in Pennsylvania has dead animals on the side of the road, mostly deer. Imagine you manage a team that collects roadkill. Could you be fulfilled?” So let’s take this, figure each deer weighs at least 100lbs (probably on the low end) which means at least 115 million lbs of “venison” is available for use each year. So how to be fulfilled with this “opportunity”. One could start a “venison” harvesting Nonprofit with locations in each PA county. One could “cloud” source funds, solicit volunteers, make arrangements with county/local police and fire departments and collect the venison for harvesting. One could then package up said venison for sale and/or donation to local food banks. I suppose one could also harvest the deer fur and hoves and other parts for use (natural fertilizer??). I’d say one and many more could find fulfillment in this endeavor.
Thanks Roger. What a great illustration. The question comes to mind. How do we find ways to contribute. In the case of your illustration, it’s finding practical uses for roadkill.
If you go online, you find some people have actually done this.
Just don’t eat a puffy roadkill.
I think I would add that fulfillment requires challenge. Once we achieve mastery with a (task, role, problem, etc.) it is easy for fulfillment to drain away. I’ve found that I have gained fulfillment by seeking new challenges and/or seeking to improve the way I do things, which requires a challenge. Meeting the challenges is another road to fulfillment.
Thanks for jumping in today, Sean. Wonderful insight.
Running from challenge is deceptive because it might feel pretty darn good. But as time passes, the consequences of avoiding things comes home to roost as lack of fulfillment.
What drains fulfillment? Lack of appreciation for what we do, but we didn’t higher you to be appreciated, “we want you to perform”. So at the end of the day we become drained mentally, physically drained after giving our all for the system.
How do leaders find fulfillment? For me its a Client who appreciates our services and acknowledges our workers did a great job. The rewards for a simple “nice job works for me”
for the workers that may be another story “grease the palm with Dollars”.
Help others find fulfillment?
The key I have found is letter them know there is satisfaction when you do something you enjoy, so seek what works best for them.
Thanks Tim. Appreciation is gas in the tank for many of us. A pat on the back or an ataha boy goes a long way. In other words we have the ability to create an interaction that is likely to increase someone’s sense of fulfillment. Cheers
I think fulfillment is determined by the frustrations. The phrase “I wasn’t fulfilled because I deserved better”, is not the issue. “I wasn’t fulfilled because I WAS NOT ABLE to do better.” THAT is the source of frustration. Leaders given the responsibility without the authority have an uphill battle with being fulfilled.
Thanks Camille. I see what you’re saying. It is frustrating/unfulfilling to be held back by indecisive leaders or bureaucracy, for example.
For me, it was feeling that I deserved a better position because I felt more qualified than some people who had higher positions. (Whether I really was more qualified, is debatable.)
I wonder how accepting reality as it is and working to make things better fits into the type of situation you refer to.
To make sure I understood, were you referring to physical suicide when you said: “Achievement doesn’t promise fulfillment. People who achieve great things commit suicide just like the rest of us.”?
Yes. Successful people commit suicide too. In other words. Outward success isn’t the complete answer to our need for fulfillment.