My work as a content strategist and writer often finds me scouring the Internet for everything from information sources to inspirational quotes. But after getting laid off in 2012, I was tethered to my laptop, daily traveling down a rabbit hole of job descriptions, seeking work that would be both gainful and fulfilling — if such a thing existed.
I’ve come across many people who are both successful and satisfied with their work. And as a strategist, writer and researcher working in technology — the perfect intersection for my interests — I felt like I was on that same path to satisfaction and success. Then, the winds of change came and blew away any semblance of job security I thought I had, leaving me to wonder what it would take to truly be fulfilled by my career.
In my quest for inspiration, I stumbled upon an article promising to “change my life forever” after answering just six questions. I was skeptical, but I soon realized that the answers to those questions would be beneficial, if not crucial, to finding the fulfillment I was seeking. Here are the six questions that helped me gauge my career fulfillment and can help you approach this new decade with fulfillment in mind.
1. What do you love absolutely?
On the surface, my answers to this question — dance, music, research, and writing — didn’t magically reveal what my next job should be, but they did show that while I love creative pursuits, I also love the practical application of those pursuits in ways that help people.
I’m now lucky enough to apply strategic approaches to using creative assets, including words and visual elements, to create engaging and useful digital experiences for healthcare companies, helping members navigate difficult topics like Medicaid and Medicare — work that is creative, meaningful and satisfying.
2. What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments in life?
It was difficult not to self-edit when contemplating this question. Shouldn’t ‘thriving as a single parent’ be at the top of my list? But this wasn’t just about personal achievement, it was about all of the things that made me feel accomplished, both at work and home. So, I boldly listed my gut response: Creating a full-time career as a (mostly) self-taught writer from sheer hard work and determination. I created a career by being curious and teachable, and I continue to approach every new opportunity with that same curiosity. It has served me well.
3. What would my purpose be if I knew no one would judge me?
When I first read this question, I was tempted to say something grand like “world peace." Not to make light of that notion, but because as I thought about my answers, each one included something that had the potential to bring joy and contentment to large groups of individuals that I hope would pay it forward.
My unedited list included ‘motivational speaker,’ ‘management trainer,’ ‘dance teacher’ and something I called ‘Dream Coach’ for "first-timers doing anything new." My shorthand for this list has resulted in a hashtag I use to encapsulate my passions: #teachwritespeak.
In addition to building content strategy teams and processes and training new content strategists, I share my knowledge and experience through writing and speaking, as well as teaching yoga as a body-positive trainer.
4. If there were no limits to what I could have or could want in my life, what would that be?
I initially wrote, in no particular order, that I’d want to have a fully equipped home dance studio or gym; the best technology that money could buy that meets my specific needs; and “a property large enough to foster hypoallergenic dogs.”
How’s that for specific?
I now teach yoga in my home studio, a space that also serves as an office for my content work. And I've got decent technology that I upgrade on a semi-regular basis, so I’m good there.
As for dogs, we’re a two-pup family and have fostered as many as four. Yet, as I look at that answer now, one of the things I want to do without limits is travel, so I’m OK with putting off fostering until later in life.
5. If I had all of the money in the world, what would I do?
Closely related to my desire to travel is my desire to learn native dances from every corner of the globe. I’m currently immersed in the local Brazilian community, learning to dance Samba and Forró, and have plans to travel to the source. I also dabble in the local Salsa scene, which has helped me to connect through dance in countries like Mexico and Panama.
Also on that list? “Coach women to walk marathons.” I was very specific about gender and modality because at the time, I’d been marathoning for five years and the experience was life-changing for me. I later mentored and ultimately coached first time marathoners — many females among them — for another six years, and like me, these athletes discovered a tenacity and resilience previously hidden from view.
My last answer was: “Advocate for things that are important to me.” Becoming an advocate has been a natural by-product of #teachwritespeak. I’ve been blessed to share my stories, skills, and experiences on various platforms, bringing fulfillment on a near-daily basis.
6. Who do I admire most?
The typical answers to this question came to mind: parents, teachers, friends, coaches, mentors and managers. But the person who stood out the most?
My son. I’ve been blessed to witness his growth into a thoughtful and beautiful soul. And I’ve learned a thing or two by watching him skillfully navigate life in a society that often marginalizes men of color. He is steadfast in his refusal to concede his integrity or compromise his intelligence for those quick to make assumptions about him before ever getting to know him. And in spite of it all, he holds fast to his dreams of becoming a firefighter and wanting to bring that passion to kids in communities who may not consider being a first responder as a desirable (or achievable) career path.
In other words, he is a doer and a dreamer. While executing small steps to make big strides, he makes time to dream – and he regularly reminds me to do the same, as when I first sat down to contemplate these questions.
Now that I’ve shared how the answers to these questions have impacted my life, here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started finding your fulfillment:
- Spend time with each question before you answer. Savor each one and give it your full consideration.
- Resist the temptation to self-edit. Let your answers be what they are, without judgment or fear.
- Without changing the original intent, rework the questions a bit if it helps you hone in on the guidance you seek.
- Revisit these questions whenever you need to. Just as life changes, so too do our priorities. And it’s always encouraging to see progress!