From Success to Fulfillment
Navigating the journey of professional growth
By Brent Bednar, PT, MPT
What is your personal definition and markers of success professionally? How does your perception of success shift as you travel through stages and roles within your career?
Early in the journey of navigating a career, main focuses include financial benefits, clinic competencies, and prospective promotions. Like an annual vacation to the same destination, these goals remain consistent and familiar, but the trek eventually expands to additional roles, raises, and skills added along the way. These multiple stops on the road to success as a private practice owner often lead to twists and turns, ups and downs.
Looking back on my career, I see how my trajectory and waypoints shifted numerous times due to unforeseen opportunities and changes. When the itinerary altered, a nearly audible “rerouting” voice prompted a pivot in goals, purposes or roles to accommodate risks, disappointments, or successes. Because of these redirects, new experiences and challenges led to clarity and wisdom. Through the journey, I’ve strived to maintain my original vision and place check marks next to financial goals, clinical proficiencies, advanced certifications promotions, clinics opened, and therapists hired.
Now I find the actual destination altered. How I define success is completely different than three years ago. Previously, my definition centered around year-over-year company growth, profit margins, opening de novo clinics, and improving my own capacity and efficiency as a leader. Once I arrived at this destination, it left a sense of achievement and accomplishment; yet, if I’m honest, the temporary happiness was brief. The following quote summarizes what we achievers often experience. Patty Gasso, head softball coach at Oklahoma University, who completed a 61-1 record in 2023, compiling five of the last seven NCAA championships.
Gasso says, “Happiness is result-oriented. You win that big trophy, you’re singing and the confetti is coming down, it’s the happiest moment of your life. And then tomorrow the confetti is on the ground, the lights are turned off. Then what do you do now? This is more a program about fulfillment. And that is ‘Who are we becoming? The direction we are going. How do we find that path we’re supposed to take?’ So, when the lights do go off, my life is still working towards fulfillment versus that one shot of happiness that can leave you very unhappy soon after.”
How and when do we switch a result-oriented roadmap of success to a more lasting sense of fulfillment as Coach Gasso describes? How can fulfillment be a vital part of the journey when a career is established and executed well already?
To embrace a fulfillment mindset, it is essential to revisit and reemphasize culture, growth, and strategic goals, thereby reestablishing a firm foundation and framework for a sustainable, stable, and healthy business. As the path towards these goals becomes well-traveled, embark on the process of crafting your manifesto of success and fulfillment.
Define and foster your trajectory by reflecting on your purpose. When you look back on the last year, what left you most fulfilled? What can you offer your company that gives you a deep sense of purpose? Is there a means of measurement to keep you motivated?
In my own journey, I have begun to place an emphasis on what I’m passionate about — developing people. By focusing on this area, I unapologetically look for ways to elevate leaders within our company.
When lost in the maze of navigating the challenges of private practice, I have these purposes as a trusty compass to rejuvenate, reenergize, refocus, and redirect me back on course, creating a sense of fulfillment. If I don’t set my internal GPS to this purpose, like many seasoned travelers, I get off track with burnout and lack of fulfillment. Instead of being surprised by this common cycle, I am proactive in driving towards something far larger than myself with an outcome far more valuable than money or achievement — I’m helping others develop and achieve their goals. By heeding the advice of Coach Gasso, your course will trend towards fulfillment versus fleeting happiness from a target-driven focus.
Brent Bednar, PT, MPT, OCS, is CEO and partner at Lincoln Orthopedic Physical Therapy in Lincoln, Nebraska. He can be reached at brent@LOPT.com