Which would you rather have? Success or fulfillment? Why does it seem that we are always being asked to choose and why is there always tension between these two things? When we do prioritize one, why do we find ourselves feeling guilty? The world perpetuates this false choice. Why can’t we pick both success AND fulfillment?
The problem starts with how we even define these two words. For too long, we’ve defined success as climbing the corporate ladder and fulfillment as something to be attained outside of work. For women, in particular, the world tells us that there is a choice to be made– climb the corporate ladder or choose family. These narrow definitions and traditional work structures have created an inevitable crossroad that doesn’t have to exist.
It is time that we break free and reclaim our right to the joy of a successful career and the fulfillment of living a life on purpose.
A Moment for Big Change
In fact, it seems like this is the perfect moment for BIG change. The world is in flux. The global pandemic and the transition back to work have given us a unique opportunity to both reinvent our own lives and reimagine the future of work to make it more equitable and inclusive.
More employees are feeling burnt out than ever before and are leaving their jobs in a mass exodus some are referring to as The Great Resignation. They’re quitting, not just for a better job, but to go back to school or to explore their passions, or to find a job that provides the flexibility they need. The “Rise & Grind” culture is no more. So, what is next?
I believe now is the time to bridge the gap between success and fulfillment. Let’s encourage ourselves and our teams to define success on our own terms rather than outdated standards.
It Starts with You
As leaders, it is our moment to read the room. The best place to help make a big change in workplace culture is to start with you.
Confession, I am a Type 3 Enneagram. Otherwise known as The Achiever. We are success-oriented by nature. Type 3s? We achieve something and then we move the goal post back just a little bit further. Repeat cycle. We like the feeling that accomplishing something hard and big brings to us.
When I am feeling burnt out by my constant drive for achievement, I like to pause and take a moment to be curious about what is driving my need to achieve.
Curiosity challenges us to ask the tough questions:
- What am I chasing and why?
- Why are we doing it this way?
- What if we did things differently?
When leaders get curious about their motivations behind success it gives them clarity and helps them see opportunities to realign. Success doesn’t have to come at the expense of the relationships that matter to us. Fulfillment doesn’t have to come at the expense of work and love. How we define success and fulfillment is strictly up to us! You own it!
Realign to Reclaim Success and Fulfillment
To make this work, success and fulfillment must be aligned. They are a combo meal, not a la carte. We’ve all seen people who chase success in hopes that one day they will “reach it” and can retire feeling fulfilled. It rarely happens that way, does it? Success is not a means to fulfillment. It was Audrey Hepburn who once said, “Success is like reaching an important birthday and finding you’re exactly the same.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum, maybe you’ve seen someone opt-out of their dreams and limit their potential because they feel guilty by achieving it or feel left behind by a world that doesn’t support them. We have seen this time and time again, especially with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to McKinsey & Company, one in four women are considering leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers due to the impacts of the pandemic. Predictive reasons for women considering putting their careers aside include lack of flexibility at work, feeling like they need to be “always-on,” caregiving burdens, difficulty sharing the challenges they are facing, and feeling unable to bring their whole selves to work.
The world is offering these women a choice: be a great employee or be a great mom. However, the magic happens when we align success and fulfillment rather than pitting them against each other. This shift in thinking will unlock energy and purpose to drive our personal lives and business goals to new heights!
At the core of this realignment, we must ask ourselves: What matters to you so much that failure isn’t an option? And then put in boundaries to protect those aspects of your life—whether it’s your career, your family, your relationships, your faith. Whatever that looks like for you.
Companies that do not respect their employees’ boundaries will lose out on great talent that only needed their support to thrive.
To align success and fulfillment, it takes a tremendous amount of curiosity—about why things are the way they are and how we might change them. It’s easy to get frustrated and to think that “this all sounds nice, but it’s not how the world works.” But the old way wasn’t working. Our collective experience during COVID has exposed shortcomings and forced all of us to reevaluate our priorities. When we allow ourselves to get curious about a better world THAT is how the new reality will be created.
Recently, we’ve seen a lot of leaders and companies making moves to reimagine how success and fulfillment can align for greater results and boost employee engagement. After taking time during the pandemic to reflect, dating app, Bumble, announced sweeping changes to Bumble’s corporate paid leave policies. The most revolutionary is that Bumble plans to shut down its office for a week two times a year to encourage staff to truly disconnect and not feel guilty for taking time off. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that the way that we work, and need to work, has changed and our new policies are a reflection of what really matters and how we can best support our teams in both their work and life,” said Bumble president Tariq Shaukat.
Let’s Go for It
So, what I want us all to do is GET OFF AUTOPILOT. Stop settling for “less than.” Less than you are capable of, less than you deserve. Less than you were meant to be. We have an opportunity to create real and lasting change so get curious and GO FOR IT!
Want More on Reclaiming Success and Fulfillment?
If you’re feeling compelled to learn more about aligning success and fulfillment, I’d like to invite you to join my Leadership Huddles. Each month you’ll join me and a huddle of peers for a specifically chosen relevant personal development topic, safe-space conversations, and sharing of best practices. The huddles are presented live with opportunities for feedback and interaction and over the next few months, we will be digging in deeper about what it means to reclaim success and fulfillment in your life.
The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams, and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. The Energized Leader Training helps you and your team align your energy with the important and avoid costly burnout. Game Changer Negotiation Training workshops teach business people the framework for successful negotiating so that you can close more deals while building stronger relationships. Her Leadership Huddles are a monthly group coaching community to guide you towards your full potential. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.