I met Oleg when I worked as an undercover FBI agent. Oleg was a Russian diplomat sent to the U.S. to steal propriety technology. My job was to find the answer to two questions: 1) what specific technology was he after, and 2) could I turn him into a double agent?

The way to pursue these questions wasn’t obvious at first, but Oleg himself provided a clue soon after I met him. When I discovered that he had signed up to attend a seminar, I signed up too. On the day of the event, hundreds of people filled a large auditorium, and I worried that it would be impossible to meet Oleg in the large crowd. I arrived early and waited in a corner until he entered the room and settled in the back row. The seat next to him was empty, so I wasted no time as I gently shoved an older gentleman out of the way so I could get there before anyone else.

As we waited for the program to start, we chatted about why we thought the seminar was important. After only a few minutes, one thing became obvious: the seminar held no interest for him. As we talked further, his entire assignment in the United States offered no fulfillment or job satisfaction.

Oleg’s lack of fulfillment made him an easy target for the FBI, but not because the FBI thought he would betray his country. Instead, it was because Oleg was a weak man who thought fulfillment was something money could buy.

Here are 4 reasons fulfillment will make you a strong person:

1. A Strong Person Plans Their Life

A Harvard Business School survey shows we have a 23-year low in job satisfaction and 84% of Americans say they want a new job. Like Oleg, most of us are passive spectators in our life. We plan careers, retirement nest eggs, and vacations, but we do not plan our life.

Over 80% of Americans do not have goals; 16% say they have goals but don’t write them down. Less than 4% write them down. 

Mental toughness creates strong people who live their life with purpose and meaning. They are an active participant in where their life is going. Recent research concludes that fulfillment and purposefulness are strong predictors of longevity. 

Are you mentally tough? Take this evidence-based, FREE Mental Toughness Assessment.

How To Make It Work For You: Don’t forget to set goals in all areas of your life:

  • Plan a vacation and savor the anticipation.
  • Explore spirituality,
  • Take up a new hobby.
  • Exercise the brain.
  • Stretch the body.
  • Review your finances.
  • Expand your social network.
  • Fix broken relationships that are important.
  • Evaluate your career path at least once a year to determine whether you’re on track. 

2. A Strong Person Uncovers Their Core Values

Bronnie Ware is a palliative nurse in Australia who spent several years caring for patients in the last twelve weeks of their life. The most common regret of the dying is that they wished they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.

When people understand that their life is almost over and look back, they see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. The regret comes from dying while knowing they had not pursued the things that would produce value and meaning for them. They didn’t honor their dreams by the choices they made or didn’t make.

To find fulfillment, we need to be strong enough to uncover the things that are most important to us. Too many times we suppress them to keep peace with those around us. But when this happens, we end up with a mediocre existence because we haven’t allowed ourselves to become the person we’re truly meant to be. 

The Olegs of this world are not strong people because the search for what brings them value has ended. They are susceptible to the suggestions and whims of those around them. Strong people do not settle for the values imposed upon them by others. They are in touch with their core values and don’t look to other people for self-worth.

How To Make It Work For You: 

  • Make a list of what you’d do if money weren’t an issue
  • Remember what brought you joy as a child
  • Enjoy those memories for a few moments
  • Reflect on what brings a smile to your face today

3. A Strong Person Pursues Work That Has Meaning

Do you ever find yourself so immersed in what you’re doing that you lose track of time? Think a minute about this. When does this loss of time and total engagement typically occur for you?

The new field of Positive Psychology shows that the happiest people are those who have discovered their unique strengths and virtues—and then use those strengths and virtues for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goals.

Viktor Frankl, who survived a Nazi concentration camp, once said “What man needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.”

The loss of self-consciousness that happens when you are completely absorbed in an activity— intellectual, professional, or physical—is described as “flow” by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

How To Make It Work For You

This is what to look for in a flow state: the activity must:

  • Be voluntary
  • Be enjoyable
  • Require skill and be challenging (but not too challenging)
  • Have clear goals for success.
  • Let you feel as though you have control
  • Provide immediate feedback with room for growth

4. A Strong Person Nurtures Healthy Relationships

The conclusion of the Grant Study (a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men) was this: “The only thing that really matters in life is our relationships with other people.”

This response does not surprise behavior psychologists who want to understand why simple existence—why being housed, fed, safe, and alive—is empty and meaningless to us. What more do we need in order to feel that life is worthwhile?

The answer that comes up, again and again, is that we all seek a cause beyond ourselves. Humans need relationships that do not always produce happiness and sometimes even produce pain. The reason is this: we all require devotion to something bigger than ourselves for our lives to have value and meaning.

When we nurture healthy relationships, it improves our happiness, even for introverts. Those deep relationships can be with either family or friends. Daniel Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness, explains it:

“We are happy when we have a family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.”

How To Make It Work For You: Since modern psychological research shows that being kind has benefits for everyone, create a grid of people with whom you can both network and nurture healthy relationships. Edit the list so you start with people with whom you share deep bonds and values. They are your priority. Create a criterion for your next layer of contacts. Besides their names, list ways to maintain contact and nurture the relationship. As the circle widens, the contacts on the peripheral are less important and deserve less commitment on your part. Move people from an inner to an outer circle (and vice versa) as circumstances change. 

If Oleg had been a person to demand more from his job than a paycheck, he would have been a stronger person. Had he taken the time to reflect on the values important to him, he would have been a stronger person. He would have never given in, whether in great or small things if it compromised his convictions. If he had been a stronger person, the FBI would never have persuaded him to betray his country.

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the guilty.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” 

Photo by Ben Allan on Unsplash

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