As a high achiever, you have a tremendous drive. You can set goals and achieve them. You’ve reached the pinnacle of your career and attained financial success. Yet, despite all this, you feel dissatisfied and empty. And you can’t understand why. Many of us find ourselves in this dilemma—successful and unfulfilled. If that sounds like you, these strategies will get you on the road to career fulfillment.
Revisit your “why”
Start by asking yourself why you chose your career. If you ask people who are successful and unfulfilled why they do what they do, you might get answers like:
- It seemed like the most practical option
- It’s what my parents did (or expected me to do)
- It was a field I knew would make me financially successful
These are decisions driven by fear and insecurity rather than a desire to find meaningful work. What gives life meaning is attaching ourselves to something significant and finding our purpose in the world. When we do, we can discover the joy and fulfillment that we’ve been searching for.
Create a personal mission statement
A personal mission statement is one of the most powerful tools to achieve career fulfillment. It should consist of four key elements:
- Your values
- Your personality
- Your strengths and unique gifts
- Your interests and passions
Once you are clear on who you are and what’s important to you, start writing your personal mission statement. It could be one paragraph or two sentences. It’s up to you. Then post it where you can see it and review it often to ensure you stay focused on what matters to you.
Here are some examples of personal mission statements from prominent visionaries:
“To have fun in my journey through life and learn from my mistakes.” – Richard Branson
“Not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou
“If something is important enough, you should try, even if the probable outcome is failure.” – Elon Musk
“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” – Oprah Winfrey
Reassess your values
When you identify the things that are important to you, you’re more likely to cultivate habits that are consistent with who you want to become. Take time to reassess your core values and whether they are congruent with your current profession. Consider this exercise: write down your top ten values (they could include things like family, adventure, autonomy, or creativity, among others) and then narrow the list down to the top five. Rank those top five in order of priority and write down why each of these values is important to you. If you feel successful and unfulfilled, this activity will help you to uncover what really matters to you.
Review your definition of success
Maybe you used to define success by your job title, the number of zeros in your bank account or how many academic degrees you could accumulate. Take a step back to review your definition of success. If you are successful and unfulfilled, your definition has probably changed over time. Perhaps it’s now defined as being able to step outside your comfort zone, balance family and work or make a meaningful impact on the world. As the author and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn has said, “Success is not to be pursued; it is to be attracted by the person you become.”
Start doing things that scare you
Have you noticed lately that you’ve been sleepwalking through your career? If you’ve mentally checked out, it could mean that you aren’t feeling challenged anymore. The reason this is significant is that the magic happens outside your comfort zone. If you don’t stretch yourself in directions that scare you, you aren’t growing as a human being. So, throw your ego out the window and start doing one thing every day that scares you. It’s in moments like these that you learn the most.
In the book If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy, author and University of Texas at Austin professor Raj Raghunathan argues that to be truly happy, we all need to feel like we’re good at something—a feeling of mastery. Yet high achievers often don’t enjoy the happiness that should come from doing good work because they go about measuring mastery all wrong. They chase money and recognition rather than mastery and impact, which is a sure recipe for dissatisfaction. Instead, Raghunathan suggests we stop chasing external signs of success and turn our attention back to what we fundamentally need—mastery. Do that, and not only will you be happier, but you’ll also probably be more successful. “When you don’t need to compare yourself to other people, you gravitate towards things that you instinctively enjoy doing, and you’re good at, and if you just focus on that for a long enough time, then chances are very, very high that you’re going to progress towards mastery anyway, and the fame and the power and the money and everything will come as a byproduct, rather than something that you chase directly in trying to be superior to other people,” he writes.
The bottom line is, rather than search for success, discover what gifts you can share with the world. At that point, fulfillment will be just around the corner.