If you’re truly unfulfilled in your career, something inside of you is trying to let you know that you need to make a change. It’s an internal compass indicating that you’re off course and that an adjustment is required.
If you’re not fulfilled in your career, it means that you’re not living out your true purpose, you’re not using or sharing your unique gifts and strengths, and you’re not living your best life.
How do we know this?
Because if you were living out your true purpose, sharing your unique gifts and strengths, and living your best life, you would be fulfilled by your work and contribution.
Fulfilling Work Is Not Always Easy
This is not to say that every moment in your career should be glorious. And it certainly does not mean that living your purpose is supposed be easy. To the contrary, there are moments in every job—even our dream jobs—that require doing things that we don’t feel like doing or overcoming challenges that we’d rather not face. Moments like that are part of the human experience, not indicators that anything has gone wrong.
What I mean by being truly unfulfilled in your career is having the incessant feeling of disheartenment that leaves you empty instead of full. When you look at the totality of what you’re contributing or trying to accomplish, your heart should sing. If your heart sinks or feels empty, you know there’s something wrong.
Feeling Unfulfilled Is a Gift—But Only When We Act On It
It’s actually a gift that we have this built-in compass of feeling unfulfilled, to tell us when we need to make a change. But it’s only a useful gift when you act on the message.
Listening to the call to change and then doing nothing about it is like receiving a gift card for your birthday that you keep in a drawer until it expires. The time we have to act is finite.
If you’re feeling unfulfilled with your work, you’re depriving yourself and the world of the best that is in you. Your contribution matters. The world receives no benefit from your particular gifts and talents unless you make the conscious decision to use them and find joy in using them.
If you find yourself unfulfilled at work, it’s time for a change. It might not need to be a big change. Maybe you need to ask for more responsibility or change your current role. Maybe it’s a matter of creating better work relationships with colleagues. Maybe you need to change your mindset about the work that you’re currently doing. Or maybe you need to change jobs or careers entirely.
Whatever change you want to make, the most important thing is to take action. I’ve had many clients tell me that they stayed stuck for years, even decades, because they were afraid of failing. By not even trying to pursue their goals or take action, they actually failed ahead of time. Looking back, they always come to realize that failing ahead of time didn’t do them (or the world) any good. Rather than wasting any more time staying stuck, do yourself a favor and take action now.
Clarity, Commitment, and Action
The first step toward fulfillment is getting really clear about what you want. This means what you want (not what everyone else wants for you) now (not what you may have wanted 15 years ago, or even last year). What sounds fun, exciting, or important to you now? What did you come here to do? What is your inner compass telling you that you need to change?
The second step is fully committing to that result. A good way to commit is to ask yourself what your reasons are for wanting that result. How will your life be better? How will the lives of others be better? Choosing goals that are aligned with your core values can provide compelling reasons. And when you have compelling reasons, you’re about a thousand times more likely to stay the course and do the work to get what you want.
The third step is taking deliberate action to make the changes you need to make. It means trying different things and failing, repeatedly, until you get the result you want. Action and failure prompt growth. And you’ve got to grow before you can bloom.
Do whatever you need to do, but please don’t let your gifts go unused. The world needs you to use your gifts and make your contribution in a way that brings you joy, whatever that may be. Your time is now.
Go forth, grow, and bloom.