6 Proven Steps to a Fulfilling Life & Career

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By: Jamal Browne

Consultant at UNDP

I recently received a very candid note from one of my mentors – a retired senior UN official, whose counsel I have found particularly invaluable over the last year.


It was one of those very timely reminders that completely repositions you if, for whatever reason, you find yourself losing focus; and as a young professional with new ideas and opportunities constantly arising, the most basic of principles could be easily lost in the thrill of it all. So such reminders I hold sacred.


Her note very simply read: “There are 3 kinds of people: (1) Those who have no ideas; (2) Those who have good ideas; and (3) Those who have good ideas who can influence others.” No doubt, we should all be working towards being counted among the latter.


Over the last few days, I have received hundreds of requests for career guidance from young professionals all across the globe, and it is quite exhilarating to know that my story has touched so many lives.


Now I cannot attest to being a career counselor, but what is very clear to me from the messages that I have been receiving, is that their concerns unanimously converge on the point of wanting to attain some measure of fulfillment in life – and that I can certainly identify with.


So for example, we would all agree that the ability to influence others is a demonstration of one’s leadership potential. The truth however, is that many prospective leaders die without ever realizing such potential: Their dreams remain unfulfilled, ideas unimplemented, and many perhaps never attained the level of influence that they were truly capable of within their lifetimes. Avoid being numbered among such statistics at all costs.


Coping with Rejection, the Tragedy of Our Generation


Now it is not uncommon for young professionals to find great difficulty in convincing prospective recruiters that their range of competencies will in any way add value to their organizations. I have personally fallen prey to the rejection bug on numerous occasions; and I must admit that it is a very painful place to be.


However, one of the greatest tragedies of our generation is the confusion between ‘Opportunities’ and ‘Dreams’. A lost opportunity does not equate to a lost dream; and keeping your dream alive in the face of rejection will be your enduring hope.


Rejection should serve as the impetus to perpetually improve your knowledge base and competencies within your area(s) of expertise. Commit yourself to this principle, and in time, you will be duly rewarded.


Equally challenging is convincing prospective financiers that your business idea is viable, and worthy of their investment. The odds are, and have always been proverbially stacked against you – that I know all too well.


However, one ought to remember that, “odds” or not, your dream can be your assured gateway to a better life, and the right opportunity will be your ticket there.


So as uphill as finding and convincing that prospective recruiter or business financier might seem, your sole mission as a professional seeking new opportunities, should be building a case that irrefutably demonstrates your capacity to deliver.


Over the last year, I have found great value in closely examining and “coding” my range of talents and competencies – this in an effort to optimize my contribution to society, while seeking to live a more fulfilled life; and at the heart of this fulfillment for me, is a healthy balance between work, family life, and my spiritual well-being – know your own priorities.


Having said all this, there are six major lessons that I have learnt thus far on this painful, sacrificial, yet rewarding journey to true fulfillment in life, and I relish this opportunity to share them with you today. I however encourage you to develop a formula that works best for you, and not to treat these ideas as dogmatic – be creative.


Proven Keys to Fulfillment in Life


  • Surround yourself with focused and committed mentors: Thankfully I have been blessed with a few of those – but by all means, take as much guidance as possible from persons who are demonstrably committed to your personal, professional, spiritual, and academic development;
  • Build a reliable professional network: If your professional network has not been working for you, then it probably needs urgent updating. Conferences typically offer ideal networking conditions. However, until that opportunity arises, LinkedIn is the perfect place to start – focus on connections within your specific field(s) of interest;
  • Stay true to your professional competencies and passions: It is always a great idea to open your mind to new ideas – new ways of getting your work done. However, caution is advised amidst the adrenaline rush of finding new knowledge, and venturing into the unknown, as it is never a great idea to be veering too far outside of your immediate competencies and passions.
  • Commit yourself to becoming an expert within your field, and find creative ways of demonstrating that: I have personally found great value in attending and actively participating in conferences within my specific areas of expertise, and maintaining my visibility thereafter. Given that my professional interests veer towards International Development, I have prioritized my participation in specific annual World Bank and United Nations conferences – where my networking is strategic and deliberate. If you are so inclined, publishing articles in journals, newspapers, blogs, or right here on LinkedIn can also generate some interest around your work (your options are endless – so be creative);
  • Remain incredibly positive at all times: This is the surest way of maintaining your sanity through the inevitable pains and uncertainties of your journey. A combination of prayer, faith, writing, studying, and spending quality time with family has made this a whole lot easier for me. Determine what works best for you, and commit yourself to a consistently positive outlook on life – regardless of your circumstances; and
  • Inspire others along the way: There is hardly anything more rewarding in life than generating social capital by simply sharing a word of encouragement with someone on the verge of giving up on their dreams, or lending a listening ear to someone in search of new opportunities like yourself.


Together, these six lessons have seen me through the lowest and most challenging points of this journey, and have certainly brought me a lot closer to my “dream career” and that measure of fulfillment that I so greatly desire. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, and some amazing opportunities are already emerging.


Today, sharing these very personal thoughts with you is rather liberating for me, and I encourage you to share them with anyone currently on a journey to self-discovery, clarity of vision, peace of mind; or in pursuit of a fulfilling career, and an amazing life.


Just remember that for most of us, true fulfillment in life comes through constant and deliberate action. For everyone else, royal blood perhaps does the trick.

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