The Myth of Occupational Fulfillment

Everyone wants to find fulfillment. At least, I assume they do. It is possible there are people out there who do not want to be fulfilled. If they exist, they are surely the wisest among us. Or the most foolish. For the rest of us, fulfillment is something we aspire to, even when we’re not sure what that means.

Fulfillment is related to satisfaction. Being satisfied is like being content, but better. To be content means to have everything you need, but wouldn’t turn away more. Being satisfied implies that you have everything you need, and you couldn’t possibly take any more. A person is content with a meal, but they are satisfied with a feast. Satisfaction is not the same as overindulgence. People who are satisfied still have the ability to stop.


This guy is not quite satisfied.

If satisfaction is when you have the right amount of a particular thing, then fulfillment is when you have the right amount of all the things you need in your life. Fulfillment is being satisfied across a wide range.

A person needs to achieve satisfaction in many different areas in order to feel fulfilled. We need material satisfaction, to make sure we are comfortable and not starving. We need emotional satisfaction, to make sure we are not sad or angry all the time. We need creative satisfaction, so we feel like we are true to ourselves.

There are many areas of satisfaction we could cover here, because different people require different things. These days, one area of satisfaction gets more attention than all the others: occupational satisfaction.

People are obsessed with their jobs. Excuse me, their careers. It is fine to seek occupational satisfaction. Having a job gives meaning to our lives, and gives us something to do. A good job can contribute to a good life. But many people expect too much. They don’t just want satisfaction from their job. They expect their job to give them compete fulfillment in life.

Even the most amazing jobs in the world are still just jobs. It might seem fulfilling to be a doctor, but most doctors also have hobbies. It might seem fulfilling to be President, until you realize how stressful that job is. It might seem unfulfilling to be a gas station attendant, but that attendant probably has much more going on in his life than you know.

Gas Station Attendant

“Buy some gas and I’ll tell you my secrets.”

It takes more than just a loving family, or a grand project, or even a good job for a person to be fulfilled. But few people focus on their families and projects as much as they focus on their jobs. And this is understandable. Jobs are so important! Jobs allow us to live, and they define who we are. It is no wonder so many people expect fulfillment from their occupation alone. You can’t blame them for being disappointed, or for lashing out when their job doesn’t lead to Elysium like they thought it would.

It is a shame, but innocent fools are still fools. Fulfillment can only come from a variety of sources. People who expect fulfillment from their jobs are deluded, at best.

Do you think a lion actually likes hunting? That the lion feels fulfilled when it catches prey? I sort of doubt it. Hunting is the lion’s job. I don’t know what crazy things a lion needs to feel fulfillment, but I do know it hunts because it’s gotta eat. If a lion feels fulfilled, it’s because it has other stuff going on in addition to its occupation.

Everyone wants fulfillment in life. A good job can go a long way towards achieving fulfillment. But when you seek fulfillment from your job alone, you will end up feeling empty.

Lions and Elephants

These lions are part of a theatre troupe in their spare time.