how do we find fulfillment

A Means to an End

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 13 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 8.51.19 AMI am one of the lucky people.

My wife and my daughter are amazing. My family and friends are fantastic. The town I live in is the best. My health is fine.

Materially speaking, I have everything I could ever hope for, and more.

Compared to millions of people on this planet, I have already hit the jackpot, simply because I live where I live. 

I am lucky because I love my job.

Even though I work with some pretty challenging clients, I never resented the day I decided to pursue a voice-over career. I can’t imagine a job that’s more interesting, diverse and gratifying. I always tell people: “You know me, I love to talk. Now I even get paid to do it!”

Every script opens a world of words, and it’s up to me to bring that world to life. Week after week I get a chance to play silly characters, to teach people new things, and to take them on trips to foreign lands and ancient artwork. Sometimes I even ask them to buy things.

Most of this I can do in my own time, on my own terms and in my own studio.

No more horrible bosses. No more punch clocks. No more office politics.

Instead, I have the most supportive and talented colleagues I’ve ever had. My readers surprise me with wonderful and insightful comments. This blog is more popular than ever, and my book is widely read and discussed.

However, what I do is only a fraction of who I am. People who know me through my work and interactions on social media, only see a small part of me, just as I only see a small part of them. Based on these fractions of information, we form opinions and we take action. Sometimes we are surprised when people don’t seem to conform to the image we have of them.

In this fast-paced world it isn’t easy to get to know the ones we interact with on a deeper level. Every day, people ask me: “How are you?” but no one ever expects an answer. After a 30-second chat they tell me: “I’ve got to run, but it was sooo great meeting you!”

Half the time people are too busy with what they do, or they pretend to be busy typing updates on their smartphones. 

Tell me, when was the last time you took a moment or two, to ask and answer this question:

“Why am I doing what I’m doing?”

The answer isn’t simple, but let me give you a clue. If you wish to have a fulfilling career, your response can never be “to make money” or “to pay the bills.”

No matter how much you love your work and the financial reward that it brings, it’s just a means to an end. It may be meaningful, but it always serves a higher purpose.

Here’s the hard part: no one can tell you what that higher purpose is. It’s up to you to find out.

I can tell you what I have discovered, although I doubt you will fully understand. That, by the way, has nothing to do with intelligence. I’ll explain. 

First of all, “understanding” refers to a logical, rational process. My most profound answers have nothing to do with that.

Secondly, I would need words to convey something important to you, and some of the most essential experiences in life are beyond words. Words can only describe an experience. They cannot replace it. The word food can’t feed you.

Third, just like you, I am a unique collection of memories, thoughts and emotions, allowing me to filter my experiences in a way no one else can. In order to get where I’m coming from, you’d have to feed the information through your filters, just like you’re doing right now. By doing so, you’re making it your own, instead of mine.

Lastly, my answers won’t be the same on any given day. Very much like every other living being, you and I are constantly evolving. Every second of our lives, cells are dying and cells are growing. It is impossible not to change. So, yesterday’s answer may not be tomorrow’s truth.

Having said that, here’s the most important thing I’ve learned.

The question “Why am I doing what I’m doing,” may not be the best question to ask. It forces us to focus on ourselves. It’s typical for the world we live in today. As long as our individual needs are met, everything will be okay, right? That’s how we think as a nation, and that’s how many people think on a personal level. You watch the news, don’t you? You read the papers. You know what’s going on. 

So, what if it wasn’t all about us?

What if the fulfillment we hope to find has everything to do with others?

What if it were more a matter of giving instead of getting?

To me, the ultimate meaning of what we do can be measured in the way we manage to touch the lives of others.

My most meaningful moments are when I look into my wife’s eyes, or when I hear my daughter laugh. It’s when I receive an email from a reader who tells me my last blog post really spoke to her.

I experience “what it’s all about,” when I hug the ones I love. We don’t have to say a word, and yet we say everything that can be said in silence.

In those moments, I feel like the luckiest person in the world.

Because it’s not so much about doing.

It’s about being. 

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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