“I just don’t feel fulfilled in my career!”
Whether your 18, 65, or somewhere in between chances are you’ve asked the question or presently find yourself in the position of asking: “Am I in the right career?” For those that might find themselves having a faith back ground, you may similarly ask: “Am I doing what God’s calling me to do?” or “Am I fulfilling my purpose?” Most asking these types of questions might add “I just don’t feel fulfilled in my career.”
Career fulfillment and, more broadly, fulfillment in life are topics which I speak regularly. Depending on what statistics you follow, one finds that more the 60% of people are not fulfilled in their vocation. While one might think it matters, age doesn’t seem to be a huge determining factor as to whether or not these types of questions are being wrestled with at a deep heart level. Recently, I was in a group coaching session where I found a 25, 35, 37, 50-year-old all wrestling with questions around “vocation” and “fulfillment”. Each were in completely different career situations; however, the root of the nudging from within all were coming from a similar place. Yes, there does seem to be some history and correlation with “mid-life”; however, I see this as more when folks begin to arrive at a point of despair and needing to deal with the tough questions. Unfortunately, in extreme situations, it leads to broken marriages, broken families, addictions, and deep depressed states for which external help is necessary.
Some say, you can’t lead someone somewhere you’ve never been for which I feel there is some truth. If you’ve never been a carpenter, then I’m not sure I’d want you as my teacher. If you don’t have a successful marriage, then I’m not sure I’d want you to be my marriage counselor. If you’ve never been a successful business person, I’m not sure I’d want you to be my business advisor (coach). The same holds true with the search for “fulfillment” in a vocation or life. If you haven’t gone through the pain staking process of self-assessment, self-improvement, and intentional development, I’m not sure I’d want you leading me down the process of figuring out what it looks like to find such “fulfillment”. For this reason, going and talking to the 40% of people who do claim to experience “fulfillment” and have never been through the journey of having to figure it out, likely isn’t your best place to find council.
In 2008, at the age of 39 years old, I found myself on this journey. By all outward appearances, our family was “living the dream”. I was an executive in a midsize company, earning a meaningful wage that allowed for many of the pleasures in life, was married to my high school sweetheart, had two children, a second home on the lake, and “life was good”. Then, one afternoon, I found myself being given a severance package and in a cab ride home no longer having a “vocation”. This was a catalyst of a process which some have revered to as the transition from seeking “success” to “significance”.
While the process varies as well as timelines associated, many of the characteristics and milestone most must pass through are the same. For me, it has taken a period of several years to get to the other side for which there are still days I humbly look back wondering if I’ve truly made it. One of the things uncovered in my personal journey is that I have a passion to guide others through a similar journey. A personal passion statement I drafted several years back with continues to hold true today is:
“I have a heart and passion for aiding people in the identification of their gifts and talents and using them to live out a purposeful life.”
One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that “fulfillment” isn’t normally tied to a specific career or vocation. Take for example the mission statement above. While I do live this out with my coaching and consulting business, I also live it out in various other environments. For example, I lead in other environments such as our farming business, TruthAtWork, church, family, as well as, other areas which allows me to enter relationships where I’m able to find fulfillment living out my mission statement or purpose. Understanding this basic framing is huge when it comes to “fulfillment”; yet, still is often extremely difficult getting to this point.
While I wish I could tell you this process was easy and doesn’t take a lot of time and investment, I’d be misleading you if I did. While people tend to acknowledge the importance of investing time, energy, and money in the process of discovery, most must be focused into it by some life altering event. Very few have the courage to embark on the journey intentionally.
If your one that’s found themselves in the journey, I’m excited about the time ahead for you. While I’d never wish the journey I’ve been on for anyone, I also can say it’s “worth it”. Need someone to guide you along the way? Please reach out and let’s discuss what that might look like for you.