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Stage IV Fulfillment: Creating a Better Tomorrow

Stage IV Fulfillment: Creating a Better Tomorrow
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In this post in our series on the Four Stages of Fulfillment, we examine the pursuit of a Vision for a better future that characterizes Stage IV.

As each of the higher stages of fulfillment builds upon the others, Stage IV Fulfillment is the ultimate level of fulfillment. This comes to us when we ask, “What difference will I have made because I lived?”

Whereas Stage III Fulfillment is rooted in the present, Stage IV Fulfillment is based on a Vision of what we hope to make possible. This Vision is powered by a belief that our actions today will create a better tomorrow, even though we may not see its full realization. Living at Stage IV Fulfillment requires maturity that comes in middle age or later for most of us. The actions of the most respected, enduringly successful individuals and organizations are rooted in Stages III and IV Fulfillment: A Purpose that benefits others today (Stage III) in pursuit of a Vision that contributes to a better future for many (Stage IV).

Stage IV Fulfillment Attributes

  • The impact will be on future generations.
  • The understanding begins in middle age or later, around age fifty or so.
  • It is characterized by having faith that one’s actions will positively impact the future.
  • The fulfillment is ever-present; it is a feeling of contentment in living life with a deeply meaningful purpose.
  • It is significant for its lasting positive impact on future generations. This is where the Visions for our life and organization reside.
  • The exemplars are researchers who toil for decades in hopes of a breakthrough, religious leaders, those in the military willing to sacrifice their lives for a better tomorrow, and the rare politicians attempting to create a better future.

Energized by Stage IV Fulfillment

During our Culture Clarification retreats with client teams, we ask team members to imagine the impact they might have on each other, their community, and the world if they were to work in service of their deep and meaningful Purpose every day. And what if everyone in the organization continued to do so for years, decades, and generations — what picture might that make possible? What impact on their community could they have?

This is the most challenging part of our work. Few of us live thinking this way, which is a challenge for our brains. This difficulty is exemplified by the leader who, after the first day of a two-day retreat, said, “I do not know what you are talking about!” At first, we can see in people’s eyes that they feel the same; few genuinely understand what we are discussing. In time, we progress, and team members inevitably create a picture of a thriving organization, a healthy community, and a better world. This picture of a better future is the organization’s inspiring shared Vision. And they become inspired by this new picture they can see.

Our ability to shift from short-term to long-term thinking is directly aligned with our maturity, which varies from person to person. The good thing is that maturity generally comes with age!

Our Perspective on Our Work

Seventeenth-century English architect Christopher Wren spoke with the men building St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which he had designed. “What are you doing?” he asked. One man replied, “I am cutting a piece of stone.” Another said, “I am earning five shillings two pence a day.” The third said, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral.” The first two were living and thinking about Stage II Fulfillment. The third had a Vision at Stage IV Fulfillment.  As leaders of our families or organizations, we must ask ourselves which Stage of Fulfillment is most motivating and inspiring, enabling Peak Performance to occur naturally.

Everything We Do Should Ultimately Be in Service of Our Vision

Humans are wired to be busy. Being busy is natural and effortless, but being productive and purposeful takes discipline and conscious effort until it becomes a habit. Being busy brings immediate personal gratification, so how do we slow down?

The visioning part of the Culture Clarification retreat connects what we are doing to what we are making possible—we are creating a Vision of what can be. An inspiring Vision captures our imagination and becomes an energizing and rallying force. What we do may not be motivating, but what we can make possible can be.

Swiss Watchmakers

By the 1960s, Swiss watchmaking dominated watch manufacturing and sales for over 100 years. In 1968, the Swiss had 65% of the market share and 80% of profits from watches. That year, Swiss researchers invented the quartz-crystal watch, which was battery-operated and used fewer moving parts. Though they themselves had invented it, Swiss watchmakers refused to adopt the new technology. They could not envision future watches that did not feature their superior mechanical beauty. As a result, Seiko bought the technology. By 1980, Swiss watchmakers had laid off 50,000 of their 65,000 workers. The demand for quartz-crystal watches had cut into the market for their mechanical movement watches. Swiss watchmakers were guided by what they were doing, not the Vision of what they were making possible.

The Newspaper Industry

There was a time when newspapers dominated information sharing through their print editions. They were experts at printing papers nationwide to meet readers’ needs. They continually increased the capital assets needed to provide more paper more efficiently. As the advent of electronic media began to fulfill the information needs of readers, most newspaper companies still needed to adjust. As a result, once-powerful community presences are mostly gone, not because the service they provided was no longer required, but because of what they were doing to deliver it.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the what and how of our doing—as we are wired and hormonally rewarded to do. What is needed is a connection to why we are doing. What Purpose are we serving today to make what deeply meaningful and impactful Vision possible tomorrow?

With this blog post, we share the last of the Four Stages of Fulfillment. Next week, we will provide a summary for those who would like to keep something simple close at hand.  We hope these Stages of Fulfillment have been meaningful to you and provide you with an aid as you create your New Year’s Resolutions this year and in the future.

#ShiftFromMeToTeam #FourStagesOfFulfillment #Purpose