How Personal Fulfillment Drives Business Strategy
“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” – Anne Sweeney
The Path To Fulfillment
If you plan to take a long journey, you need a compass or a map (or at least a GPS). The journey from overweight to healthy and fit requires planning, perseverance, and some direction. The shift from ‘getting by’ to ‘fully engaged’, or from satisfied to fulfilled, requires the same. The journey to getting your leadership team on the same page, aligned to delivering your strategy requires the same.
Building our individual definition of success is a lot like a compass directing us to the internal experiences we require to feel alive. Whether we are consciously aware or not, it is in the background, constantly filtering out anything that doesn’t equip us to make the best choices in-the-moment. A definition of success can also act as a compass guiding a leadership team to fulfillment and business results.
Defining What Drives You
Just as we have physical needs (like air, water, and rest), we each have emotional needs, experiences for which we long. When we don’t know exactly what they are, we can end up going through life like a ball in a pinball machine, bouncing from one bumper to another, from one job or relationship to another, one policy or protocol to another with little understanding of why and not much control over our lives.
For example, some people aren’t made for a nine-to-five job. Their emotional need for freedom or flexibility or autonomy supersedes their need for security. But maybe they were told they had to go that route. Perhaps their parents valued security more highly than freedom. There are lots of reasons why our individual driving needs become obfuscated over time.
Organizations also have inherent needs. The need to preserve a legacy or reputation, (perhaps a safety record or differentiated customer experience or the need to take care of employees or other deeply held value) often define a company. As organizations grow, merge, and hire quickly in a fast-paced environment, it is easy to lose a shared understanding of what success should really look like.
Identifying Your Needs
These emotional needs and the experiences that drive us, can be both required and highly desired. It’s the difference between water and chocolate: we need water, we want chocolate. If we don’t feed our required needs for a while, they can rear up and highjack our rational mind. If you’ve ever woken up one morning shaking your head about the night before, you were probably hijacked. For example, if we have a driving need for attention and have felt marginalized or silenced in too many meetings, we might find ourselves suddenly blurting out something and regretting it. But we got everyone’s attention; all eyes are on us now.
Further complicating things is the notion that once identified, we must learn how to feed our needs in a healthy way, independent of other people. That’s important. Because if we wait for other people to provide us the opportunities to feel the ways we want to feel, we will wait a long time.
Let’s say you have a driving need for admiration. You might strive for professional advancement, motivated by a desire for that experience, thinking that the only way you can feel admiration is to be admired by others. The idea here is to understand you can feed these needs internally. Watching a beautiful sunset can evoke an internal sense of admiration, as can listening to beautiful music, or gazing at artistic creations. Dancing or cooking, or a hundred other things, could be your preferred choices of things to notice and admire. These rich experiences can feed your admiration need.
With your team, it might be more about figuring out how to be who you need to be under the constraints and changes that happen every day. For example, creating alignment after a merger or figuring out how to provide high touch service with fewer resources.
Once we identify our unique, finite set of emotional needs, then we drive our needs, they don’t drive us. We find ways of creating experiences that fulfill our needs, constructively, rather than becoming a victim of those that don’t. That’s the true source of fulfillment we label “happy.”
Fulfillment does not occur in the situation. Fulfillment occurs in you.
We must be present and intentional to find it. Fulfillment is about how we make or find meaning in difficult situations and it is a critical characteristic of resilient people and organizations. We might be happy (or ecstatic) to win the lottery in the short-term but without fulfilling work of some kind, studies tell us we will wither away in the long-term.
Your sense of fulfillment comes down to how you define success. And then, how you live it.
Getting clear on what success looks and feels like to us will influence our ability to make more effective choices both individually and organizationally. As we already know, childhood and work environment influences can obscure our own measuring sticks. It’s a good idea to take stock and recalibrate our definition of success every so often. That only happens if we pay attention. As you begin a new year, there is no better time than right now.
Knowing how to measure success by your own standards, and not by other people, predetermines the success itself. And it’s a lot easy to deliver your strategy when people are fulfilled doing it.