Career Choice: Focus on Achievement & Pleasure or Joy & Fulfillment?

Pleasure & AchievementIs there a real difference between Joy & Fulfillment vs. Achievement & Pleasure or is it purely semantics?  Let’s see if this makes any sense to you.  Most of us have been raised to believe the following myth, whether explicitly or implicitly, “Focus on Achievement and Happiness will follow.”  Unfortunately, in my work as a life coach, I have met more people who are extremely successful using traditional metrics, but who do not have much joy and fulfillment in their lives.  They may be able to afford a lot of pleasure, but when the activity is over, they usually feel empty (many times unaware of it or pinpoint the cause), and indulge back in yet another pleasurable activity.

The more driven you are, the more you get attached to the myth about achievement.  While I am not suggesting that you avoid focusing any attention on goals or achievement, I do want to raise your awareness to our tendency to look more at “either/or” choices rather than “and” choices.  Recently, I had the privilege to participate in a 2 day mastermind with Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame and the message that I received over both days was to consider the “and” option more than the “or” option.  We often artificially limit our choices severely using the “either/or” option.

Focus on AchievementDriven mainly by fear and/or ego, we tend to push our children to go for the grades, get the top spot, and so on.  Too much emphasis is sometimes placed on the results and not cherishing the journey and the joy of learning.  Once you buy into the pure routine of “winning” and subscribe to the great NFL coach Vince Lombardi’s philosophy — “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” and “If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?” — you can become a slave to achievement.

As I was finishing this post inspired by the conversations I had with a few parents and students after my talk at the University of Pittsburgh on the topic, A Student’s Dilemma: Making Choices, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from my brother.

The Journey of SuccessThe email was announcing the Bay Area USC Marshall Career Day which stated that the theme for this year’s event, “Finding Happiness & Fulfillment in your Career” was a change from their past themes and will help answer questions such as:

  • How can I find greater happiness and satisfaction at work?
  • How can I assess my own strengths?
  • How can I know if I am a correct fit for my current job?
  • How can I move forward if I am feeling trapped in my current career/role?
  • How do I assign value to my job/career?
  • How can I reduce stress/conflict/unhappiness at work?
  • How have others made successful career transitions?

I was delighted with the theme as these are not the typical questions that we condition our children or graduates to ponder.   They usually revolve around career path, compensation, upward mobility, etc.  Too many people get on that treadmill and as the speed increases, they find it increasingly difficult to jump off.  As you get encumbered with the demands and needs of your outer lifestyle, your begin to unconsciously trade your inner lifestyle for it.

Unfortunately, we all look for tangible results and the typical measures and metrics included under Standard of Living rarely consider elements such as Quality of Life.  What is it that you are REALLY looking for?  Is it peace of mind?  Don’t you want to rest your head on a pillow and not have it swimming with thoughts, worries and anxieties?  Do you have to drink expensive glasses of wine to con yourself into having a good time, while you are really numbing yourself to sleep?

Success is an inside job and the light of awareness illuminates the wisdom within yourself.  Focusing on Achievement and Pleasure does not necessarily lead to Joy and Fulfillment, especially if the attention is pointed predominantly outward.  The rewarding journey of retrospection, reflection and self-discovery begins with an inward focus.

The Inner Joy of Fulfillment

Peace and best wishes,


Up Next: Making Choices: Big Ones vs. Everyday Little Choices