5 Ways to Know Whether Your Work Fulfills You Or Not
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach
Finding fulfillment in life feels like a struggle much of the time. Sometimes, if we are lucky, things seem to fall into place and work out okay.
Other times we realize that we aren't happy with something in our lives, and we need to do something I refer to as a "course correction." When you stray off course in a boat by even a few degrees, if you don't course-correct, you can wind up far afield of your original destination.
We often stray off course in our lives, and if we don't course-correct, we can wind up far afield of where we originally wanted to go.
But you can always course-correct.
A "course-correction" can be made in any area of your life that isn't working as well as you would like.
Maybe it concerns your health or a relationship.
It might include the work you choose to do.
Too often, however, we get caught up in the moment and make decisions that may not serve us well in the long run.
We settle for a job we aren't thrilled about because of our fear that it may be the only one we can find.
We may even settle in our relationships, fearful that "true love" is the kind of thing you only see in the movies.
To find fulfillment in your work, you need to know yourself well. You have to pay attention to what truly lights you up and makes you feel happy.
If you aren't sure if your current job or the work you do is fulfilling, check out the list of five ways you may be able to tell.
1. Do you look forward to going to work every day?
If you look forward to going to work every day, you are one of the lucky few. Too many people dread going to work on a regular basis.
According to Gallup, before the pandemic, at least, as many as 70% of Americans said they were either "disengaged" or "actively disengaged" in their work.
I translate that to mean they're just going through the motions. They may be earning a paycheck, but they aren't living a fully satisfying life.
When you can wake up in the morning and know you're going to make a difference that day for someone…then you've found fulfilling work.
So, on a scale of 1 to 10, where are you on the job satisfaction continuum? Do you dread going to work, or do you look forward to it with anticipation?
2. Do you feel focused most of the time?
In many circumstances, a lack of focus indicates a lack of interest. If you find yourself in a heightened state of focus, it's a good sign that you are fully engaged in your work. Your attention to your work means that you find it fulfilling.
A disinterest or lack of motivation and drive will divert your focus to what you wish you could be doing instead of what you are doing.
When you are doing something, you enjoy, however, it is easy to stay focused on the task at hand.
3. Do you enjoy your "off" days or fret about when you have to go back to work?
Some people may enjoy their off days. But many wind up thinking about their work even on their days off. They are always in this mental and emotional battle with themselves.
This is unhealthy for anyone in a long-term working situation. It also detracts from your ability to relax and enjoy your off time.
If you say to yourself something along the lines of "Oh gosh, I have work tomorrow!" then your work is most likely not fulfilling to you. Usually, the days before work are the worst for those who hate their jobs.
I have seen this with my teacher clients. I have heard stories of the feeling of dread and the pit in the middle of their stomachs on Sunday before going back on Monday. They feel the same on the days before going back after a vacation or break.
If your job causes you that much pain and distress, it's time to look for a different job.
4. Does your work serve the purpose of fulfilling a passion?
There's nothing more fulfilling than doing work that you love. It is a good feeling to know that what you do for a living makes a difference. And it is nice that you also get paid for doing something you love!
When you're doing work only for a paycheck, it can be challenging to stay motivated. But when you feel acknowledged, everything changes. You feel like you're a part of something important.
To be able to work at something that you have an interest in is a definite blessing. And it can even be a stepping stone for bigger things ahead.
5. Do you complain about your work to anyone who will listen?
If your work is not fulfilling, there's always going to be something about which to complain! The minor things will set you off.
Too many people spend their time away from their job complaining about something at work.
Complaining doesn't help. But it is a symptom that you are caught up in unsatisfying work.
When you are happy in your job, you don't need to dwell on things that go on there. And you won't need to bore your spouse or your friends with your complaining.
The real solution is to choose work that fulfills you.
Money is an issue for most people, which is why they work. Fulfillment is seldom sought out these days, and that is why unhappiness at work is so common.
Everyone thinks if they can make enough money, happiness, and fulfillment naturally follow.
But it doesn't work that way.
Too many of us have felt forced to take jobs we didn't love and then stuck with them out of fear.
We fear change. We fear failure.
What if what we dream of doing would be too hard? What if we couldn't manage it and be successful?
But sticking with a job you hate--or just don't like--and complaining about a lot--you are demonstrating your dissatisfaction.
The stress will eventually catch up with you and make you sick.
Or you may realize mid-life that you have wasted all those years doing something you hated. That just leads to regret and unhappiness.
The way to know if something is fulfilling to you is for you to try it. Give it a go as a part-time gig if nothing else.
Mark Twain probably put it best: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Until next time.