At or near the end of each calendar year, several organizations have a tradition of picking the Word of the Year. For 2021, Oxford English Dictionary selected Vax while Dictionary.com went with the equally appropriate Allyship. It is an interesting way to reflect on the year that has passed; but in a recent conversation with a colleague, I was introduced to a practice of picking a personal Word for the Year–representing a theme for the upcoming year. It can be used as a way to set intention, to envision possibilities, and to commit to one’s goals. The word I find most resonant, for me as well as for many of our clients, is Fulfillment. The definition of fulfillment most appropriate in this context is one provided by Lexico.com: Satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s abilities or character.
Reflecting upon what fulfillment means in our work, I’ve come to realize that defining fulfillment is an important exercise in self-reflection and self-study. Fulfillment isn’t driven by society’s definitions of success, nor is it about how we might think we “should” be feeling or acting; fulfillment is about resonating with one’s true purpose and values. As we enter another year, here are a few ideas on how to shift the paradigm of common new year’s resolutions through the lens of fulfillment.
- Career: from status to satisfaction. Have you ever had the experience of getting a promotion or completing an initiative, only to realize that reaching this milestone didn’t give you as much satisfaction as you anticipated? So many career decisions are made based on what we believe we should want, rather than on what actually inspires us. What if instead of pursuing a specific title or prescribed next step, we took the time to reflect on what the most satisfying work experience could look like for each of us? What possibilities could open up this year if we did so?
- Leadership: from theatrics to authenticity. The majority of the current workforce was trained with a vision of leadership based on assertiveness, extraversion, and power. In reality, it’s servant leaders, those courageous enough to be vulnerable and truly collaborative, that truly lead and inspire. If becoming a stronger leader is among your resolutions for the year, I invite you to imagine how the fabric of our society could shift if more (most?) organizations were to embrace and support authenticity in leadership on all levels? What change can be made in your organization?
- Networking: from surface to connection. Networking took on an interesting form since the start of the pandemic, as endless invites to online events flooded our inboxes. Excitingly, some in-person conferences are back in operation, though with the same strange thoughts lingering ahead of each one: will people wear masks, are most people here vaccinated, etc.? The exhausted, zoom-fatigued masses are now expected to cheerfully re-mingle and enthusiastically push their organizations and careers forward. If the pandemic taught us anything, it is to cherish true human connection; so if “getting out there more” is on your resolutions list, consider ways to prioritize quality over quantity. Feeling seen, feeling energized by someone who shares your passions, the sense of belonging when meeting someone on the same wavelength–these things can be much more productive and beneficial in the long term than a mere number of LinkedIn contacts or webinars attended. Let us measure networking by the deep bonds we build and how they make us feel. Furthermore, companies can take note, cut out the networking routine, and facilitate connections within organizations that serve a deeper purpose.
- Balance: from compartmentalization to wholeness. For many, especially in the last two years, work-life balance has become something of a running joke. With kids in remote schooling, roommates in quarantine, and travel plans cancelled, we get bombarded with: “are you remembering to meditate daily?” or “go for walks” or “make sure to put blocks on your calendar” and “drink more water.” These suggestions have their place, but the bigger issue is compartmentalization – the battle of work vs. life. We only have one life, and work is a part of it; in the new year, as leaders and colleagues, let’s focus on the whole person. What makes you get out of bed in the morning? Is your why reflected in your work? Instead of carving out more time to practice self-care after being burnt out by work, how can one’s purpose be realized IN work, such that work itself invigorates? As leaders, consider whether your company nurtures talent and helps colleagues realize their passions, consequently helping them operate at their best. Individually, consider what are you saying yes to and no to in your current plan for balancing work and life.
Fulfillment is not a doing; it’s a way of being. I encourage us all – individually and on organizational levels – to focus on how we want to be in 2022 and beyond. New Year’s resolutions are more likely to stick for the long haul if they aren’t based on punishing or pressuring ourselves, but instead are a reflection of deep self-love and unconditional acceptance. Let’s leave the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘shouldn’ts’ in 2021, and live a life more aligned with our inner values and desires.