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Pursuit of Fulfillment

By Sandro Krug

During my career in HR, across different industries, different companies, different countries, and different business functions, I have met few people who feel fulfilled with what they are doing at work. Sadly, it seems that many people too often are grasping at straws, trying to find reasons why they still do what they do. But why is this? And more importantly, what can we do to improve our degree of fulfillment at work?

Is it meaningful?

If your work is something you truly love, it will give you drive, direction, and a deep feeling of fulfillment every day. But do we always know exactly what makes us happy? Do we know what drives us in the direction of fulfillment? To find out, I suggest to start with WHY1.

Write down all aspects (not matter how small) why you think your job is meaningful to you. Ask yourself why you chose that job. Finish that exercise, then try to answer a few simple questions:

  • What do I do through the day to make the world better for other people?
  • What motivates me to get up early in the morning?
  • If I wrote my memoirs today, would I dedicate a full chapter to my current job or just a side note?’

If you come to the realization you need to change your job, I suggest you plan your next steps in a tactical way. Before you apply for a job, it might be useful to get acquainted with the purpose, vision, and mission of your prospective employer. If you get a glimpse of their strategy, all the better.

Then ask yourself: How does their reading material relate to my personal core values? Is the purpose meaningful or maybe just a nice marketing slogan? Talk or write to people who work for this company and ask them if they can really see a link with the purpose in their daily work. Lastly, check references well.

Do you touch someones heart with what you do?

In 1990, Kahn was one of the first to describe ‘personal engagement’ as the “…harnessing of organization member’s selves to their work roles: in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, emotionally and mentally during role performance.”

Today, ‘work engagement’ has become a buzzword in most of the multinational companies I know. Martin Seligman, a pioneer of the psychology of happiness and human flourishing, says that according to modern theories of self-esteem, life is only genuinely satisfying if we discover value within ourselves. Yet one of the best ways of discovering this value is by nourishing our unique strengths in contributing to the happiness of others. Consequently, the final stage is the meaningful life and, specifically, the meaningful work in which we find a deep sense of fulfilment, by employing our unique strengths for a purpose greater than ourselves.

Let’s assume that you feel engaged at work. You can express yourself in many different ways, and it feels right. Right in your heart. Now let’s assume that by the way you express yourself, you also positively influence others. This leads to the effect that you use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are. Touching the heart of someone else.    

Dare to be authentic!

We all want to be respected as human beings with our unique characteristics (gender, ethnicity, religion, thoughts, beliefs, etc.) that make us who we are as individuals. In private conversation we might state our opinion in another, maybe more direct way, than in business.  But we always share a part of our identity. It’s obvious: in business we’re often faced with situations where we need to incorporate a lot of different perspectives before we share our opinion. And we might also say things in another way than we would in a private conversation. This, however, does not mean that you cannot be honest with yourself.

I will always vividly remember that senior manager, who admitted in a private conversation that every day, when he enters the office, he needs to put on his “business mask” to fulfill all expectations that the company raises. I was shocked to hear that. I acknowledge that we all need to stick to a certain corporate etiquette, but if you cross a certain line you can seriously damage your health. Research shows that loss of genuineness (inauthenticity) is one symptom of depersonalization, which is one of three characteristics of burnout. So is it really worth keeping a job when you have to behave with all the enthusiasm of a child on the way to the dentist?

What can you really risk if you speak up? If you do, you will always contribute to an open and authentic culture. You are not only acting as a role model for others, but you will also be perceived as a genuine and courageous colleague. Last but not least, you stick to your personal values and directly help your body to be in balance with your mind, and vice versa.

Play to your strengths!

Bandura has defined self-efficacy as one’s belief in their ability to succeed in specific situations, or accomplish a task and reach a goal. Furthermore, scientific results indicate that both self-efficacy and work engagement affect job satisfaction. So, what he is saying is that we should play to our strengths, rather than act like a Jack of all trades, master of none. To strengthen one’s level of self-efficacy, it is crucial to broaden one’s skills in specific areas, form a stronger sense of commitment to our interests, and to recover quickly from setbacks at work.

Additionally, it is important to understand and leverage individual talents to develop a “personal best” in order to increase future potential at work and foster one’s self-efficacy. The Reflected Best Self (RBS)™ is an interesting feedback-seeking exercise that helps to identify and understand unique strengths and talents in four subsequent steps:

  1. Gather input from a variety of sources – family members, peers, colleagues, etc.
  2. Recognize patterns from the feedback
  3. Compose your self-portrait
  4. Redesign your job

Knowing your strengths offers you a better understanding of how to deal with your weaknesses—and helps you gain the confidence you need to address them.

In my opinion, fulfillment at work can best be achieved when we play to our strength, have the privilege to touch others people heart, and experience meaningful work in an authentic way.

Now let me ask you: Is your work meaningful to you? How do you make it meaningful? How can we all create a meaningful workplace? I’m curious to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

Also see our recent post, “Leading from the heart,” by Simon Marshall


  • 31 October 2016

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