Fulfillment is something we all seek, but it’s a hard concept to grasp in terms of the strategies we need so that it manifests itself through real experiences. Perhaps it’s because fulfillment is unique to the individual or our own sense of fulfillment can change so quickly. Regardless, through a conversation with good friend who we believe is a model of personal fulfillment and genuine self-satisfaction, we sought to discover what fulfillment truly looks like and how others can obtain it for themselves.
Now in his 70s, Solon doesn’t waste words, and his insight into life is remarkable. We’ve met no one else who gets more out of each and every one of the 1440 minutes of our days. When we asked him about living a life of fulfillment, he spoke of the strategies to follow for what he called a value-designed life. Solon took some time to think, as we asked him for more, and we walked the beautiful trails of White Clay Creek; he landed on three key ways that he feeds and satisfies his hunger by living a life of fulfillment. He embraces these strategies each day and so can you.
Solon: “Honestly, my degree of happiness or fulfillment isn’t subject to what I achieve or what I accomplish. I discovered this truth almost too late in life, though…that who I was and my self-satisfaction could not be wrapped up and determined by a promotion, landing a new client, or closing a big deal. For years, I worked to fill this insatiable desire from within, a hunger and drive that catapulted me to early success. I was 43 when I made partner at my firm, three years ahead of the average layer, and I was just getting started. I was achieving everything I wanted and then suddenly, one indistinguishable Tuesday morning, a week after making partner, my laser focused desire to own the day was blurry. I still felt an overwhelming need to be an incredible attorney, but in an odd way, I actually desired even more than that. I decided to take the day off and try to listen to what was actually going on inside my head…and my heart. I needed space to gain clarity. I was at the pinnacle of my career, and as I stood at the top of the mountain. At the summit, gazing down, I saw a whole world that I missed, one that I suddenly wanted to join. Making partner, one of my highest goals in my life, opened up even more interests, yet they weren’t isolated to a board room or my high-rise office. From that day forward, I not only pursued my career with an obsession, I sought ways beyond the norm to serve that gave me an even greater sense of accomplishment and personal fulfillment in life and work.”
Solon gave us invaluable advice that we share with you here, and he left us with this quote as we finished our walk in the woods:
“My first thought every morning is one of thanks. I inhale gratitude and exhale faith. I express my sincerity each day by making a difference in the world.” ~ Solon
The first thing you must do is actually identify what it is that you truly value as a person. Take time to identify the elements in your life that create a true sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. For this to happen on a deep level, you must go beyond what you think matters to uncover how you feel during certain experiences. The noise in our lives is so loud that we often fail to genuinely uncover and identify the values that lead to a greater sense of success. The key to living value-driven days is in making sure that your daily actions and activities are aligned to your core values. The challenge here is to identify the specific areas of your day that provide fulfillment and to avoid the broad brush. Surface responses, such as “making a difference,” don’t provide the specificity needed to replicate the feeling of fulfillment we need each day. We can alter the broad approach to “making a difference” by saying that the difference should be made in others. Many leaders find that “contributing to others” (Jones, 2016) is a vital way to add value to their own life because it increases our feeling of connectedness, allowing us to help others feel special, and, in turn, providing fulfillment. Once you clearly identify the key values in your life, like “contributing to the lives of others,” look to include ways to achieve them in your daily work.
Technical Tip: Rand Fishkin told us about the importance of ongoing alignment between our work and our values. To make this happen, we must pause throughout the day to determine if what we’re doing is aligned to our overall value system. Rand talked about self-awareness and grounding ourselves in our WHY. Interestingly, if adding value to others is important to you, then your actual vocation isn’t what matters most. You might be a school teacher or truck driver, what matters are the opportunities we get each day to serve and add value as often as possible. Our values can be woven into anything and everything we do. Use Rand’s strategy today by pausing often to reflect on your values and your actions. Are they aligned? If your value is to contribute to the lives of others, what have you done in between each pause to ensure that you’re living a value-driven day for better fulfillment.
The second thing you must do for greater fulfillment in life is to identify the experiences that typically satisfy your hunger outside of work. We often create fulfillment by pursuing other interests and hobbies, and we miss this when our time is hijacked by professional goals and even familial needs. Nonetheless, the benefits of intentionally seeking outside-of-work activities has incredible results on feeling fulfilled. The key with a value-driven hobby is that it creates an even deeper passion and purpose in life. The value is added to you as a person, but it also adds value to your work and family when you’re feeling your best. Everyone wants the best you they can get. “A hobby keeps you aware, inquisitive, and on the cutting edge of one more aspect of your life. Exploring a passion in-depth also helps you to gain a better understanding of yourself—how you function, what you like and dislike, and what is most important to you” (Jones, 2017). Get more out of yourself, unveil your greatest talents, and reach depths of joy by pursuing hobbies that fulfill you.
Technical Tip: Having a hobby fulfills a deeper desire that supports your overall well-being. Identify at least one hobby that truly inspires you and excites you to be a better, stronger person. Build time in your weekly and weekend schedule to pursue it. Without the blocked time, it won’t happen. Without a value-driven hobby, you won’t be your best self.
The third thing you must do is to develop deep relationships with a few people who you can truly trust and be yourself around. This step may be the hardest because it requires us to be vulnerable and to let others into our life in new and different ways. The Grant and Glueck studies reveal the power of relationships and how “close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives…those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes” (Mineo, 2017). Whether the person is a good friend, a mentor, or a trusted colleague, you need time with them on a regular basis to decompress, get things off your mind, and enjoy a good laugh together.
Technical Tip: Developing close and meaningful relationships is a critical aspect of life and studies reveal that the impact is clear on our health and fulfillment. Identify three different ways that you can further develop a current relationship that you have with someone who means the world to you. If you don’t have a mentor, get one. And, if you don’t have a trusted colleague with whom you can share a laugh, take inventory of your workplace and make a friend.
We hope you’ll heed the advice of our friend Solon. Fulfillment is more than your professional goals, and it’s even more than providing for your family. Being at your best is important for you and others. Without a value-driven daily exercise, a value-driven hobby or two, and a value-drive relationship with three key people, you’re not growing and contributing as well as you could be. That’s our fulfillment model, and we hope you learn to practice stronger engagement in life and work through personal fulfillment.
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Jones, M. (2016, May 31). 5 Ways Extremely Successful People Find Fulfillment. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/matthew-jones/5-ways-extremely-successful-people-find-fulfillment.html
Jones, P. (2017, October 15). Having hobbies outside of work is key to your professional success. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/careers/professional-development/2017/10/15/heres-why-having-hobbies-outside-of-work-is-key-to-your-professional-success/104712918/
Mineo, L. (2018, July 24). Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study has been showing how to live a healthy and happy life. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/