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Performance versus Fulfillment

Are you a performance driven or a fulfillment driven individual? Do you compete or do you live? Do you struggle each day or do you enjoy every second?

Whenever I ask those questions I’m getting the most intriguing answers. But each and every answer reinforce the fact that people are extremely motivated by performance. Fulfillment seems to be seen rather like a consequence of a performance based attitude, than as a path to be followed on its own. In today’s post I’d like to sketch a few directions about how performance and fulfillment approaches are shaping our lives.

So, how do you define performance in your life? What’s fulfillment in your life?

External versus Internal

For me, performance is external. Is something that I have to be congruent with, something that I have to align with, something outside myself. In order to perform, I have to shift, to remodel, to rewire, to rearrange myself, according to an external model. Even if I try to create my own model it will still be based on outside perceptions. Performance is happening on the outside.

Fulfillment is internal. Is something in which I can genuinely dive without any outside support. Is something that emerges, that grows from within. In order to be fulfilled I only have to embrace, to accept, to dissolve into a sea of inner resources. I don’t need an external model for my fulfillment, everything I need is already there. Fulfillment is happening on the inside.

Rules versus Freedom

Performance means usually to respect a set of rules and be really good at that. Every performance needs to be measured and for that it needs rules. Rules are bounding, limiting and restraining. Performance comes from total obeisance of the rules and from acting in a finite territory.

Fulfillment doesn’t need any rule to happen, is just there. Fulfillment doesn’t really have a measurement system, it either is or it isn’t. Fulfillment happens in freedom, is endless in its nature and unmeasurable. Fulfillment comes from total flexibility and from acting without any restraints.

Proof versus Knowing

Every performance is meant to prove something. Most of the time it proves a higher capacity of the performer, it proves the fact that more can be achieved. Without any proof there wouldn’t be any performance.

Fulfillment doesn’t need to prove anything, it’s just there. Fulfillment is feeding your sense of completeness and integration. It nourishes your deepest connections to yourself. It doesn’t need more of anything, because it is already complete.

Consuming versus Creating

Every performance is consuming something. It’s consuming your resources, your time, your skills. In order to achieve a certain performance you have to spend something. Every performance is expensive.

Fulfillment doesn’t need anything. Even more, fulfillment is always creating something out of your current state. Fulfillment is never expensive, on the contrary, it always gives you something instead of taking something from you.

Finding Balance

Being only performance based or only fulfillment based is not a choice for me. I rather go with a balance between performance and fulfillment. Changing from one attitude to another as I grow.

Shifting my status using performance based approaches is leading to fulfillment sooner or later. After a certain period of adjustment to external stimulus and rules – in which I am totally performance driven – I find myself joy in an inner fulfilling abandonment.

After respecting the rules of climbing I can rest into a peaceful stillness on the mountain I just conquered.

After consuming experiences I can create things based on that.

After getting proof of overcoming my own limits, I can enjoy the simple truth that I can always do that.


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This Post Has 19 Comments
  1. Performance and fulfillment very nicely explained with the points making a lot of sense. At the start of the article itself I know what is the right way. Of course, it’s fulfillment driven life. A nice read.

  2. This is a problem that many in our society face; they care so much about performance, status, and consumerism that they lose site of true fulfillment. I always try to make sure that my goals are in line with my ultimate purpose before I start trucking blindly towards accomplishing them.

    Great post!

  3. In my eyes there has to be both. You need to perform and the energy or drive to perform comes from a place of fulfillment.

    I look at it like you have sit down and do your work – which is the time to perform. The work you do must be fulfilling or you end up depressed. Fulfillment comes from being involved in work that is a part of something bigger than yourself.

    It makes the act of performing much easier when I have a true purpose to everything I do.

  4. Correction on last sentence: People who find fulfillment, generally find it as a by-product of following their life purpose, not as a goal in and of itself. Indeed, seeking fulfillment can become just one more type of external performance standard, and as such, will ironically leave us empty and confused.

  5. For over 20 years I’ve worked with high achievers mostly in business settings. From company directors to CEO’s and Presidents, many of my clients perform at extraordinary levels, achieving status, wealth, and interestingly enough, seldom fulfillment. Even people with whom I’ve worked who are fervently seeking fulfillment, seldom find it. Yet, I’ve had the privilege of knowing many people who are deeply fulfilled with their lives, and who are pretty darn productive at the same time. The difference in these two groups? People who find fulfillment, generally find it as a by-product of following their life purpose, not as a goal in and of itself. Indeed, seeking purpose can become just one more type of external performance standard, and as such, will ironically leave us empty and confused.

  6. When I was younger I was definitely performance driven. At that early stage in my life I was yet to become awakened and conscious. Since that time I have re-examined all the core values I was indoctrinated with as a child and as a young person. I jettisoned some and embraced new values ie. those of my own conscious choosing and that became a pivotal point of change in my life. I’m now a more balanced person who can enjoy life in a deeper way than I ever did before.

    I strongly identify with these words of yours: “After respecting the rules of climbing I can rest into a peaceful stillness on the mountain I just conquered.”

    I gain a lot from what you share Dragos and I am grateful for it. Thank you.
    .-= timethief´s last blog ..Getting stuffed and decluttering =-.

  7. Hi Dragos, very insightful take on performance vs. fulfillment. I think the fulfillment comes from knowing what the person’s underlying values are. This allows a person to know what he really wants, and start focusing on the positive aspects of his life. As a result, this helps him move toward fulfillment of one’s potential.

  8. It’s funny Dragos, because some people try to find fulfillment in their performance. What happens though, is they realize performance is so fleeting. If you perform amazingly well on a project at work, your boss will be very happy, but he will forget all about that the next time a new project comes up. If a person bases their fulfillment on praise from the boss, this will be a very crushing experience.

    Fulfillment on the other hand, is not a “what have you done for me lately” mentality. Great article, and thank you.

  9. I’ve never given this much thought, at least not until reading your article, but I realize now that I have come to live by fulfillment. That was definitely not always the case since I always followed the rules and operated from that performance perspective up until the age of 29 or 30. Ahhhh the freedom that comes with growth.
    .-= Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog ..Why Breaking Bad Habits Just Got Easier =-.

  10. Interesting take. I think those are good questions to ask. It seems you are making the case for living life based more heavily on fulfillment than performance. In that case, I would agree. I believe I live a much more fulfillment based life than on that relies on performance, especially when it comes to how I relate to others. Sure we all have an innate drive toward competition, especially during certain activities, but it’s not ( or doesn’t have to be) the driving force that determines how you see others and choose to interact with them.

    Interesting post. Keep it up.
    .-= Gianpaolo Pietri´s last blog ..optimal living challenge | upcoming smackdown at oleta park! =-.

    1. I tend to find a certain balance, to be honest. Sometimes I lean towards performance, sometimes I lean towards fulfilling. I do find joy of life in both. What I try to avoid is to mix them. Performance is always triggered by outside factors and consumes me, while fulfillment is always coming from within and it feeds me. Mixing those up will make me confused and unbalanced.

    1. Your cakes are sure fulfilling you (and not only you, from what I know) 🙂 So, good joke aside, there’s only one thing I could add: the feeling of fulfillment you enjoy after performing well as a cook is surely tasty 🙂

  11. My dear Eurpean fellow! 😉 This is indeed great food for thought. Personally, I figured out that the answer to find the balance is called entrepreneurship. For 3,013 days I worked for KPMG and I do not regret a single day. Yet when it comes to fulfillment, even if I am struggling right now, I am definitely more fulfilled now than I was before. For me entrepreneursip equals balance:

    Entrepreneurship = (Internal + Freedom + Knowing + Creating) * Performance

    1. Wow, 3013 days is surely a long time. Glad you found the courage to get out of that trap. I bet you’re enjoying every second now 😉

      1. Sure I do!! If I hadn’t stepped out into the rain of reality, I would’ve never accomplished to write my first book… http://www.bit.ly/93nwEI – And you know what they say. In life a man has to plant a tree, write a book and have a kid. The only thing left is to plant a tree… 😉

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