2.0 The Four Stages of Fulfillment—An Overview
After I had completed a corporate retreat, a sharp-looking man approached me and said, “Thank you for opening my eyes. I am forty-five years old, and I have never given thought to my life having a purpose. I have been doing what I was told all my life, and that has filled my days.” The realization that he could take responsibility for his life was a revelation, and now his true purpose for being could begin.
How is it that a mature leader like this had never given his life’s purpose a thought? I shared this story the following week with a revered medical leader and doctor who said, “I am not sure at forty-five I knew my life had a purpose. I was very busy taking care of sick people and learning.”
The Four Stages of Fulfillment
One of our principles of leadership is built upon our deeper understanding of one’s maturity and conscientiousness, our responsibility to others, and our ability to delay gratification—to wait for fulfillment in time. Why we do what we do was studied by Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. Levels of maturity, conscientiousness, and happiness have been studied and labeled by many. Merging Fr. Robert Spitzer’s study of the philosophers with my mentor Don McMillan’s Fifth Vector in the Activity Vector Analysis Assessment has resonated significantly with our clients. The result of the merger is the Four Stages of Fulfillment which we have formalized in the Foundation of Greatness, and it has helped our clients better understand why they do what they do, and how they can become more purposeful in their efforts.
The Four Stages of Fulfillment guide our clients individually and organizationally as they manage decisions in a strategic and purposeful manner. In summary, they are:
Stage I – Personal Physical Fulfillment
We are born with the need for Stage I Fulfillment. A baby cries when wet, cold, tired, or hungry. The fulfillment is immediately gratifying, but it does not last long—perhaps only hours—and then the crying begins again. Stage I serves our personal physical needs only; it has no bearing on another person, but it allows the perpetuation of life. Stage I is vital to our ability to thrive in service of the higher levels.
Stage II – Comparative Accomplishment
Stage II comes to us in early adolescence as we understand how to compare ourselves to others, and it dominates our developmental years, until about the age of thirty. The comparativeness is everywhere—it’s emphasized in the classroom, on sports fields, and even in what kind and color of phone we have. The joy of fulfillment lasts months, like the smell of a new car, and impacts others only as they compare themselves to us. Stage II is what our competency is built upon. It provides the foundation for success. While growing and becoming more competent is critical, living a life in service of this stage is “no win,” as someone will always have a newer and nicer car or phone, lift more weight, or have greater net profits than we do. In service of a higher stage, Stage II enables us to succeed more effectively with greater competency.
Stage III – Contributing to Benefit Others
Stage III is seen in adults who understand their responsibility to others. For many, this awareness comes between the ages of thirty and fifty. The fulfillment comes from seeing our efforts contribute to the accomplishments and success of others, which often takes time, perhaps decades. While we may not feel the fulfillment right away, others who are impacted by our contribution do feel someone cares about them. Our purpose in life and our organization’s purpose needs to reside at this stage for enduring success to have a chance. It is the fulfillment of others’ needs that provides the side of the equation that is required for sustainability. It is the serving of others that enables our being rewarded.
Stage IV – Ultimate Fulfillment
Stage IV is faith based. We believe what we are doing will leave a lasting legacy for the benefit of mankind. The life we lived will have left a mark on the world, and it will be better as a result. The impact we have is significant to many in the long term. This stage comes to us in mature adulthood, perhaps at age fifty or so. This stage defines what it is that our vision serves, the vision of a meaningful picture we are trying to create for the benefit of many. Stage IV Fulfillment is always with us, as we feel we are living a life of deep meaning.
Understanding “Why We Do What We Do”
Regardless of where you are on your journey to discovering your personal purpose in life, once you understand the Four Stages of Fulfillment, a journey of deeper discovery will have started. The world looks different as we understand why we do what we do. The world around us becomes more energizing as we tap into that which is most meaningful and fulfilling to us.
While the Foundation of Greatness is built upon three Principles of Mankind and Four Disciplines of Leadership, the power of each individual component is significant. Understanding “Why we do what we do” may be the most important principle to understand. It is the strategic purposefulness with which we live our lives that permits organic success individually and organizationally.
This post is part of series drawn from Fritz Seyferth’s upcoming book on the Foundation of Greatness.