The Quest for Meaningful Work: “Is This All There Is?”

Karen Ann Bulluck experiencing meaningful work, sitting at a table with a journal, closed laptop, and her book Discovering Power in front of her. Purple candlesticks, a brass lamp and picture of clouds in the back.

As a female leader in a corporate career, I was very focused on achieving more, proving myself, getting more things done. Of course, that’s what we all do in corporate jobs. That’s what’s expected. Meaningful work is optional.

For a long time, that focus on achievement kept me very motivated. Plus, I had the added bonus of a boss who was quite willing to let me try new things and explore different aspects of the business. So, my natural curiosity and love of learning were satisfied too.

But there eventually came that moment when the first niggling sensation of doubt tumbled through me.

“Is this all there is?”

I ignored it. After all, I had a great career. I was making good money, and I had a promising future with the company.

I managed to keep the feeling stuffed down in some inaccessible corner of my being—for a while.

The little voice came back. A little louder each time.

“Is this all there is?”

It was harder and harder to ignore it, to stuff it down.

Work became, well, work. Something to get through each day. A battle to fight. And not just a battle with my colleagues when we had different ideas about how to get things done or even what needed to be done. No, there was also the growing battle within myself.

It wasn’t that I hated my job. I didn’t. I loved the people I worked with (most of them). I enjoyed the challenges and opportunities to stretch myself that still existed.

It just didn’t mean as much as it had in the past.

Now, as the man that was my boss at the time I left the company told me, not many people walk away from the kind of secure, well-paying job that I had. He was right. It’s not easy. The lure of the money, the position, and the ability to make an impact in the organization were all very tempting.

“Is this all there is?”

I could no longer avoid the question. I had to find out.

Thus began my quest for meaningful work. . .and maybe more than that, for a meaningful life.

“What?” the rational side of me cried. “Are you crazy?”

“What?” my parents roared. “What are you thinking?”

My husband, to his credit, agreed that I should check it out.

I began with a career coach, then took professional coach training. I hired another coach. I started to write more, to toy with ideas for a book. I saved money. I plotted out my financial needs.

I kept doing my job.

I got more ideas about what I wanted to do. I got more clarity. I saw more and more possibilities.

I kept doing my job.

Until I really couldn’t anymore. Not because of the job. Because of me.

Because all that questing, all that introspection, all that new knowledge had changed something fundamental. Although maybe “change” isn’t the right word.

All that new knowledge, all that questing, had allowed me to see—finally—a different side of me.

The real me? Perhaps, but I’m finding that there’s more about the real me that I’m still discovering.

I quit my job. My parents thought I was nuts. My boss didn’t know whether I was crazy or to be admired. I think many of my colleagues felt the same. My husband was very supportive. Thankfully.

My quest for meaningful work, a meaningful life, took on a new reality.

Most of us need to have meaning in our lives. We need to feel fulfilled. We need to feel that what we do matters.

Writing for me is meaningful. Coaching clients is very fulfilling. Giving inspiring speeches about risk-taking and creativity is exhilarating.

That’s what gives me meaning.

What about you?
Do you have (or want) meaningful work?
Are you fulfilled, as in full to the brim with life and love?
Do you want to be?

It’s a risk, no doubt.
But, for me, it’s worth it.

PS – I have two openings for my one-on-one Impactful Risk-Taking Mentorship available. Do you want more meaning in your work and life? Do you need clarity on what that looks like? Schedule a discovery call to find out if this program would be a great fit for you!


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