When we talk about finding fulfillment in our work I don’t think it’s a stretch to say, for the majority of us, that means finding a job we derive meaning from that also pays the bills. One cannot be without the other.

If we can’t find fulfillment in a job that pays the bills we’re encouraged to keep looking as if we will have somehow failed or lazily settled if we don’t. Though, if we were to take an informal survey of our friends and acquaintances (and get an honest answer) asking the question, “Do you find fulfillment in your paid work?” we’d likely find many don’t. If we followed with the question, “Are you currently trying to find a new job you would find more fulfilling?” many likely are not.

If we were to ask the question, “Why aren’t you looking?” to those that report not being fulfilled in their work and not looking for an alternative we’d likely get many responses about timing and responsibilities – valid excuses. Aspirations cannot escape circumstance.

But what about the people who tell us they never expect to find fulfillment in their paid work because what they found fulfilling was not paid, or did not pay enough to meet their needs? Would we think they had failed in their imagination of what was possible or lazily settled?

There are two parts of our culture: the part that tells us anything is possible with persistence and the part we’d prefer to pretend did not apply to us, reality. We see reality on the news – people who have lost their jobs and had no choice but to accept jobs below their level of qualification, or people who graduated but cannot find work in their field, if at all.  Persistence will greatly increase the probability of success, but not guarantee it.

Perhaps we should place fulfillment on a spectrum – starting with finding fulfillment in acceptance of where we are at.