There is a lot of sense in entrepreneurs, anyone in a business start-up and anyone in business for that matter, to have mentors and coaches to assist, guide and support them. I was recently asked by one of mine about fulfillment. Now that was a challenge. What was fulfillment to me? What would it look like and feel like? I realized that having been challenged I wasn’t totally sure what fulfillment actually was. The more I thought about it the more I wondered if I had any real idea at all.
Consulting dictionaries I discovered there are two sides to fulfillment. One is a tick box process that something has been achieved and the other is a warm fuzzy feeling created by the former.
- Pragmatic, the achievement of something desired, promised or predicted, meeting a requirement, condition or need.
- Emotional, the feeling of happiness and satisfaction, contentment when a need or expectation is fulfilled, the state or quality of being fulfilled; completion, realization.
For me fulfillment happens when there is flow in my life; flow is the smooth, natural progression from one event or project to the next. A smooth transition as one task is signed off and the next initiated. If tasks stagger or hiccup from one to another there is little satisfaction as “ticking off the boxes” takes over. It suggests pressure and compulsion instead of satisfaction and achievement. Fulfilment involves being in the moment, mindful, giving full attention to the task at hand, and enjoying it. Else why am I doing it? For more about flow, I can recommend reading “Easy – stories from an effortlessly created life” by Jennifer Manson (available on Amazon). It has challenged me to simplify things and go with the flow, follow my sixth sense, that quiet voice of direction and knowing in my head.
So what’s this got to do with mental health? Lack of fulfillment robs me of motivation and plants the seeds of depression. I look back over the last 4 and a half years and wonder at the roller coaster I have been traveling on. Having been through cancer treatment and struggling with the “belt and braces” post-treatment (to make sure, as much one can, cancer doesn’t come back, being 5 years on medication with side effects), I then had a really challenging two years’ work-wise. There have times that getting going and remaining upbeat and positive (the “normal” me) has been a real struggle. I’ve had black days. I’ve had periods where my creativity and organizational ability have gone off on holiday without me. When the pressure gets high I realize that I am usually creating the stress in myself – its origin is endogenous, rather than external (from other people) or exogenous. At its worst, the stress almost spills over into a panic attack; a feeling I have learned to recognize and deliberately step back from. It has a lot to do with my expectations of myself, my high standards and the volume of work I expect myself to be able to accomplish. I have written about this in my post OCD, Perfectionism or just high standards.
Now working for myself I have been able to take control of the workload and the stress. When things start to overwhelm I give myself a timeout. When I feel exhausted and brainless due to fatigue I take a snooze break (rather than a coffee break); trading that snooze for a couple of productive hours of work later. When I worked for other companies I always honored my employer by working more than the prescribed hours. I started early, finished late, felt guilty if the online grocery delivery arrived during work hours and needed unpacking or I stole a few minutes to load/unload the washing machine. Then I resented working the extra hours. Now I don’t.
Now I have control and I can look at what I have achieved and the feel-good factor creeps in. I am living with fulfillment and feeling fulfilled, achieving a good volume of work at a standard I am happy with. What more can I ask for?