A Coaching Power Tool By Manuel Guerreiro, Executive & Life Coach, PORTUGAL
The Difference Between Success vs. Fulfillment
The archaic meaning of the word Success is, the good and the bad outcome of an action, which comes from the word “succedere” which means to come after, to follow after, to go near to. But since the mid-16th century, this word has undergone important changes in meaning. Success is now commonly defined as the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status, thus being a favorable outcome, positive outcome, victory, or triumph. This change in meaning that we can find in dictionaries partly explains the evolution of our society, which focused on obtaining an outcome, comparison, and competition with others, or on judging ourselves based on preconceived ideas of what will make us happy.
We’re under constant pressure to do more, get more, be more. Today this is what success is all about… more.
For generations, the message “know your destiny, work hard and keep the course” has been taught and reinforced in us as the most reliable strategy to ensure a prosperous life.
We tend to believe that we are granted happiness as a consequence of mastering our vocation, and that achievement is the reward for achieving excellence. But how many people do you know who are excellent at their work, but still unhappy?
We often imagine that if we work until we reach some distant goal, we will then be happy. But when we reach this goal, we often have the feeling that it is not enough, we have a constant sense of scarcity, which turns into pressure and anxiety. The will to succeed and the fear of failure reside, like the two sides of the same coin, inseparably linked.
Our actions and objectives are measured by the success we can achieve, so we are rarely at peace, both professionally and privately. This explains the difficulty in being really present when you are on the “podium”. You know you’ve achieved a goal, but there’s still a sense of loss. You’re worried about the other things you might be doing or receiving. Your achievements and pleasures disappear almost as soon as they occur.
Chasing success is like shooting a series of moving targets. Every time you hit one, five more appear from another direction. When we reach a goal, we feel pressure to work harder to earn more money, exert more effort, and possess more material goods. Norms and examples of “how to achieve it” constantly change, while an accelerated world of technological and social change constantly poses new obstacles to overcome.
Faced with this instability, many people assume that success requires an all-or-nothing approach. They believe that success depends on putting all their energy to achieve one goal. But no matter how noble, one goal cannot satisfy all of a person’s complex needs and desires.
Survey after survey we observed a high degree of job satisfaction and burnout among the general working population, even among those with many options.
That’s why people who tell you that happiness, fulfillment, and meaning will automatically come if you simply do the work you love, are misguided.
In the largest-ever survey in the U.S. on how we see the meaning of Success, there are a clear majority of Americans have responded: meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. They don’t want the old model based on wealth, status, and power. We are therefore in a paradigm shift of something very important.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “achievement” as follows: “satisfaction or happiness as a result of the full developing one’s potential”. The Cambridge Dictionary is a “feeling of pleasure and satisfaction because we are happy with our life”. They’re not bad definitions. Of course, what’s missing is how.
The circumstances that provide fulfillment are different for each person because the interests, needs, and desires of each person are different. There is no one-size-fits-all fulfillment.
We now live in a world where, with amazing accuracy, Netflix recommends movies you might enjoy, and Amazon suggests books you might like to read. It’s a World of YouTube and on-demand television, individualized Google search results and personalized news feeds. All these unprecedented technologies share the same determining quality: they are personalized.
Society is moving from an industrial economy dominated by large, stable, and hierarchical organizations to an increasingly diversified and decentralized economy of knowledge and services, populated by freelancers, independent entrepreneurs, and free agents. All of them are very different, yet all rooted in a single idea that animates the emerging Era of Personalization. Individuality matters.
The key to achieving fulfillment is a mindset that empowers you to adapt to your circumstances to your unique interests and abilities. This mentality can be summed up in: Take advantage of your individuality in the pursuit of fulfillment to achieve excellence.
As such, understanding the genuine nature of your motivation is essential for you to achieve fulfillment, because only by touching your own unique motives will you feel a sense of authenticity, meaning, and completeness. For this, a commitment is necessary to know yourself as thoroughly as possible. Only by understanding the details of your interests and desires will you recognize and embrace opportunities that suit your authentic self. The only way to ensure that your individuality really matters is to honor your most sincere desires and aspirations.
The more you understand yourself, the greater your ability to judge fit and diminish the role of luck. Knowing yourself and having the confidence to act upon that knowledge, you take control of your destiny.
The power of choice is the power to engineer your purpose—and thus the power to achieve fulfillment. If you are free to look for choices that suit your individuality, you may discover opportunities that no one else would notice. Choice puts your individuality into action. It is the means by which we can convert passion into a purpose.
The pursuit of fulfillment does not resign you to a vow of poverty or a life of hardship. It maximizes your chances of living your best life. Whether you feel trapped in a job with no way out or are taking the first steps in your career, whether you think you already know your true vocation or feel directionless and drifting, this change of mindset can guide you to a life of passion, purpose, and achievement. Unlike the definition of success, fulfillment is enriching and endures.
Personal fulfillment is the achievement of life goals that are important to an individual, in contrast to the goals of society, family, and other collective obligations. Personal fulfillment is an ongoing journey for an individual. It begins when an individual begins to become aware of himself or his environment.
To feel fulfilled and to know each other is also to rest in a paradigm of limitation in any one activity for the sake of the whole. That is, in the reasoned pursuit of what is enough for me.
This principle goes against the popular opinion that success is all about breaking through limitations, that it’s about having more, being more, and doing more. Several investigations show that high-powered people who experienced real satisfaction have achieved it through the deliberate impositions of limits.
Saying “Enough” is the antidote to society’s addiction to infinite “more.” Viewed in this light, it becomes a vehicle to actively make choices that allow you to obtain satisfaction in more areas of your life.
Let us invent a way that allows us to contribute to each other, and establish a distance that will help us to be fully ourselves.
When we feel fulfilled, we wake up every day and delight in the notion that we are a gift to others. We move instantly from a context of survival to a context of growth opportunities. We play live as someone who makes a difference.
Considering ourselves and others as contributions, we distance ourselves from concern and engage in a relationship with others.
The contribution goes beyond the self. When we contribute, we connect to the world. Our contributions tell us how much we have grown, and what we are truly capable of, and give us a sense of identity. At the end of our lives, looking back,
looking at our contributions, gives us a sense of conclusion, knowing that we had a role in leaving the world a better place.
People want to be part of something bigger than themselves, and when they feel they are, they contribute in transformative ways. This perspective can illuminate the kind of legacy we want to leave, the impact we want to have that is greater than ourselves, and perhaps the role we want to play in the world.
Understand What Matters to Us by Comparing Success vs. Fulfillment
If we think about our educational experiences, how many times have we had someone bothered to help us understand what matters to us? It’s not part of the equation. Sounds so simple, right? How can we not know what motivates us? But I think most of us are pretty terrible at really understanding what moves us.
As a coach, we must support our clients to understand the genuine nature of their motivation, and the detail of their interests and desires to ensure that their individuality is respected.
By first helping our client discover and recognize his values, perceptions, and beliefs around what it means to be successful, you will allow him to create a change of consciousness and the possibility of seeing things in a whole new way. It’s about opening his mind and showing a more complete range of possibilities. Helping the client reformulate this narrative gives the client access to the power to change.
In this reflection, we must question the client about their unique circumstances and capabilities. It will support him/her to define how he/she is contributing and want to contribute in the future, as well as help to decide on the limits he/she can deliberately set, and that will allow your client to apply this new narrative and feel more satisfied in more areas of his/her life.
As a coach, we must support our clients to deliberately identify and leverage as many different motivations as possible. The more distinct the reasons the client identifies and takes advantage of, the greater his engagement with life. Your client will be able to be more flexible, as different opportunities will activate different sets of his motives. This adaptability gives us something that was lacking in the definition of success: sustainability.
If the customer decides to move on to the action phase, the coach can support the client with their potential fears related to entering the new and unknown. The coach needs to recognize the steps taken so that his clients are aware not only of their progress but also of their courage in wanting to take responsibility for their life choices. This sense of responsibility for a situation is highly empowering, as it will give him/her the control and insight that can influence when and how quickly he wants change to occur. It also gives your client the greatest challenge of all; make change happen within himself/herself rather than waiting for changes to happen around him.
Reflection on Success vs. Fulfillment
- How do you know you’re successful?
- What measures do you use to measure your success?
- What is the best way to achieve success?
- What do you care about success?
- What’s good enough for you?
- How and why would you like to contribute?
- What makes you move?
- Define how your actions leave a lasting impact on the world
Zander, R. and Zander, B. The Art of Possibility; Transforming Professional and Personal Life. Lua de Papel.
Rose, T. and Ogas, O. Dark Horse: Achieving Success through the pursuit of fulfillment. HarperOne.
Nash, L. and Stevenson, H. Success that lasts.
Groysberg, B. and Abrahams R. What does success mean to You?