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  • BY LINDSEY M LEE, PhD

The Fulfillment Blueprint

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But there is one deep truthful knowing I carry with me and strive to help others realize in their own lives: Align your work to your core values and you will find fulfillment. That’s it. That’s the whole piece.

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Just kidding. Of course I have more to say about this.


It sounds straightforward enough. Find work that aligns with my core values. But there have been so many barriers put in the way that many of us find ourselves at some point in our careers feeling deep frustration, deep misalignment, and deep dissatisfaction. While simultaneously knowing. Knowing we were made for more. Or different. Or better.


In my experience and the experience of many of the women I work with, those barriers even get in the way of giving ourselves permission to consider our personal values as we seek work, let alone giving any concerted attention to clarifying, articulating, and owning them. Women are frequently socialized to set aside their own wishes, strivings, and needs. So why would any of us have dedicated any time to thinking about what is actually most important to us, much less taken the radical step to choose career on that basis?


Are you ready? It's Your Time.


What is a core value? Go ahead, think about it for a minute.


Core values are fundamental beliefs that serve to guide our behavior and decision-making. They are deeply held principles that influence how individuals perceive and interact with the world. Warren Buffet famously declared the importance of integrity and honesty when he stated, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Oprah Winfrey espoused prioritizing authenticity and empowerment, “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.”    


Given that most of us haven’t been intentional about articulating our values, the obvious next question is how do we get clarity around our values? First, you have to give yourself time and space to contemplate them. Introspection can be a space fraught with past trauma, difficult realizations, and bad habits so be sure you walk into this time in the right mindset to examine what comes up with grace and honesty and without harsh judgment.


If you need a place to start, many core values lists are just a Google search away. There are a lot of strategies for starting to narrow those lists down. Start by reflecting on your past experiences, identifying what matters most to you. What principles have guided your biggest decisions in life? In what moments have you felt most alive? Consider who your role models are. Examine your current behaviors – do your everyday choices and behaviors feel deeply authentic? Identifying inconsistencies between your choices and what you say is important can clarify your true core values. Talk to trusted friends and family members to gain a fresh perspective. Share your reflections (yes, this will require some vulnerability) and ask for their input. Experiment with some new experiences that you believe will (or will not) jive with the values you’re coming to understand. Group similar values together and choose the most meaningful ones from each group. Be patient and compassionate with yourself along the way and keep in mind that uncovering your core values is an ongoing process of self-discovery and refinement.


So let’s discuss the pursuit of alignment. You’ve done the difficult but gratifying work to clarify and articulate your core values. Now, follow me if you will.


Sit upright, straighten your spine, slowly close your eyes, and picture it. Picture a life where every choice you make resonates deeply with who you are. Where do you feel it

in your body and what does that sensation feel like? What color is it? If it were a flower, what kind of flower would it be? What kind of sounds does it make?

woman sitting straight
Sit upright, straighten your spine, slowly close your eyes, and picture it.

Silly? Maybe, but these thought exercises help condition yourself to understand what alignment feels like. Now consider the world of possibilities in work that generate that sensation. Perhaps you want to advance your career on your current trajectory and you just need to find an employer whose mission and culture better fit your core values. Maybe you want to break free from your corporate job and start your own business under your own brilliance. And instead of all that, perhaps you’d really rather just teach yoga on the beach in Bora Bora because that is what generates that deep sensation of alignment that feels like a purple lilac gently swaying in the breeze under the hot summer sun.


Alignment will bring fulfillment in new ways because your work will become more than just a job, it can become a genuine source of authenticity and inspiration in ways you have perhaps never experienced. Your day-to-day tasks, even the mundane ones, suddenly become filled with purpose. And the experience of alignment builds your resiliency for facing future challenges.


So with this new understanding of your core values and what fulfillment feels like, is it time to reassess your current career trajectory and allow an openness to change blossom? To what extent does your current role (and its path) allow you to embody your core values?


Finding alignment doesn’t require dramatic change, change that may not be feasible for you for a myriad of reasons. Exploring avenues for realignment could involve activities like seeking out new projects, pursuing further education, or considering a like-role in another place. Mentorship, community engagement, and collaboration opportunities can be other avenues to explore. But as you traverse these avenues, evaluate them through the lens of your freshly understood core values.


This process requires you to embrace vulnerability. Invite your support network along for the journey, those who can champion your pursuit of clarity and authenticity and offer other perspectives.


Finding alignment doesn’t require dramatic change, change that may not be feasible for you for a myriad of reasons

Remember, the quest for alignment is a journey, not a destination. Embrace the twists and turns, the moments of uncertainty, knowing that each step brings you closer to fulfillment.


As Howard Thurman famously said, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."


I invite you to give yourself the chance to come alive.


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Meet the expert:

Lindsey M. Lee, PhD on Her Nation Magazine
Lindsey M. Lee, PhD Industrial/Organizational Psychologist Executive Coach

Lindsey Lee, PhD has over 15 years of experience in executive coaching, corporate training, workplace investigations, leadership and organizational development, change

management, and culture management.


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