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That Empty Feeling

Have you reached a high level of professional success but still have a nagging feeling that something is missing? Do you feel like one of Dorothy’s friends journeying on the yellow brick road on a quest for wholeness?

Sometimes we can’t seem to put our finger on why fulfillment and personal significance elude us. We search far and wide pursuing a variety of goals and trophies, yet never find the fulfillment we are hoping for. As leadership guru John Maxwell would say: “We attempt to solve an inward problem with outward solutions.”

Inward problems that inhibit fulfillment and personal significance, while varied, do carry a common theme. These inhibitors often include…

Pursuit of too many things leads to an inability to discern best from good. There are many good things in life that keep us from what is best for us, thereby causing more harm than good through seemingly harmless distractions.

Pursuit of self-serving goals simply is not fulfilling. While inexplicable to some, nevertheless it is true that the pursuit of self, by self, for self always leaves us feeling empty. Marc Maron once said, “I know I’ve got an endless void in my heart, it’s what makes me a good consumer.”. Fulfillment comes when we bring value to others for their sake or for the benefit of the whole; significance is found when we ourselves are valued for the value we bring others.

Striving to attain power—when we seek power in order to control, or when we seek wealth for the sake of gaining power, prestige or privilege, an empty feeling will persist. While power can deliver many things, it can be blinding to purpose and even the reason we received it in the first place. If our motive is to gain influence in order to serve, or to achieve financial success with which to do good, therein lies the path to both significance and fulfillment.

Empty feelings prevail in society because people pursue self rather than seeking to benefit, uplift and encourage others. It may be helpful to consider that we each exist for a purpose—it is through our unique and individual purpose that we are able to bring value to our families, our friends, our work, and to our world. Significance and fulfillment are achieved when we deliver value by living-out our purpose.

Counter intuitive as it may seem, it is when we bring value rather than seek to gain value that we truly are fulfilled…it is then that we lead lives of significance and meaning.

If you struggle with that empty feeling, maybe it’s time to ask yourself a few questions:

– Are you the same person no matter who is with you?

– Are your decisions based on how you can gain benefit or how you yourself can bring benefit to others?

– Do you readily give credit and show gratitude to others when it is by their efforts that you succeed?

– Do you work harder on your image or your character?

– Is the rank you achieve an opportunity to serve greater needs, or is it simply your just reward?

Personal fulfillment and significance come when we bring value to those around us, not when we seek to gain value. That is the secret to fulfilling the empty feeling. It is also the secret to values-based leadership.

Is your tank empty or full?

- Davis Taylor and Gaines Taylor, TAI Incorporated


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