Growth vs. Fulfillment – What is the Difference?

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We all hear about personal growth, whether it is physical, spiritual, or work-related. I used to believe it was a pretty simple concept; you made a decision on what you wanted to do and outlined the steps to get there. This was my thought process back when I was younger and slightly naive. What I didn’t bargain for was the fact that our ideas of personal growth change over time and life experience. For example, when I graduated from college, I thought I had it all figured out. I wanted a career with a specific company where eventually, I would move up the ladder and my career would take the specific trajectory I had planned out. For the first seven years, everything worked out pretty much the way I had intended it to. I was growing, learning more every day and enjoying where my career had taken me. I felt like my personal growth was off the charts. Then, around year eight, something inside of me changed. I continued to learn and grow within my career, but I didn’t feel completely comfortable with where I was or what I was doing. I started to feel unfulfilled with my career and more importantly, my personal life.

I had achieved what I set out to do, but once I got there I had no idea what was next. Little did I know that I had tied up my entire identity with my career, and not only did I lose touch with who I was as a person, but I didn’t realize my own idea of personal growth had changed over time.

Personal growth versus personal fulfillment – are they the same thing? I looked up the definition of both words and found this interesting. Growth is based upon the idea that you are in the process of developing. The basic idea of fulfillment centers on the notion that you have accomplished something and you are satisfied. So in reality, a person could experience a high level of personal growth, yet never achieve fulfillment.

This can be a challenging idea to grasp as we all have a different definition of personal growth. Many will see it as just that – what they are doing in their personal lives to grow. Some (like my younger self) believe that personal growth is tied up with your career. Yes, there are many cases where someone experiences personal growth through their career. The trick is to understand how to tie your growth to your personal fulfillment.

Does your personal fulfillment come from your personal growth or does growth lead to fulfillment?

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