Picture your average businessman: smart, ambitious, and probably considered an overachiever by most people. He’s hungry for success — the kind that can be seen and admired by all — and sets out to achieve this success by establishing professional goals and devoting his life to reaching them. Once he achieves those goals (earns his first $1 million, C-level office, etc.), he succeeds. His goals define him.

There’s a good chance this guy believes, deep down, that success is everything. But there’s another way to think about your career — one that will help you live a satisfied life.

A New Paradigm

This is the ultimate equation for a good life:

Following your passion/expressing your true self





There are all kinds of discussion on the definition of “success.” Success, in this case, is any notable material or social achievement in your field.

Fulfillment is Bigger than Success

Fulfillment is a broader concept than success. You can have success in any field, but if you combine it with something other than “following your passion or expressing your true self,” you will not achieve fulfillment.

Think back to our businessman. Perhaps he reaches the top of his career and meets all his professional goals, but he does it without any love for his product or passion for the people he’s helping. It is possible to become incredibly wealthy, solely on the combination of grueling hard work and ambition. Despite this obvious success, he will never achieve fulfillment.

Passion Fuels Success

You may think, “Why does this matter?” Success is success, right?

Fulfillment is a healthier goal because it’s more attainable. If the businessman is passionate about the product he sells, he achieves fulfillment as soon as he starts selling to happy customers, and he retains fulfillment long after his breakthrough success.

If you rely solely on professional goals to propel or motivate you in your vocation, you will miss the opportunity to run on the high-octane, limitless power of passion. That passion will drive you even before goals are met, and they’ll keep you going when you fall short. Most people who reach the biggest goals are motivated by their passion for their chosen profession.

The Fulfillment Continuum

Fulfillment is a continuum, not a fixed point. A goal is a single point of attainment or a milestone you can reach — or not.

Fulfillment is more subjective. It’s a feeling you get when you’re engaging in an activity or career that you’re passionate about — an endeavor with which you connect on a deep, emotional level. That feeling will continue to flourish for as long as you engage in the activity that brings it into your life. When you stop the activity, the feeling of fulfillment will go away.

When They Overlap

A base level of success will heighten your fulfillment. You may begin to feel fulfillment when you start working in a field, but setting goals and reaching them will increase those feelings.

For example, look back to our businessman. He may love his product and really believe in the problem he solves by selling it. But if he can’t pay his bills through his passion, the feeling of fulfillment will fade quickly. This is why I usually advise entrepreneurs to keep their day jobs until their businesses are profitable.

Professional goals have a place in the fulfillment equation. They can help you achieve the base-level success you need to be fulfilled in your passion or expression of your true self. The key is to not use goals as your sole motivation.

Fulfillment is a better motivation to shoot for than simple success. When you find your passion, it’s much easier to reach both success and fulfillment in your career.

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