How to Be Successful, Rich, and Live Happily Ever After. How to Find the Perfect Mate. How to Have the Perfect Marriage. How to Raise Your Kids to be Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. How to Find Happiness and Lasting Fulfillment. And if there were such manuals, would everyone follow them? Not likely.
Unfortunately, no such manuals exist. But fortunately, there are those who have traveled the road before you who can offer some insight to living a better life. All you have to do is consider their insight as you go about creating the life you desire.
Most people believe they’ll find fulfillment as they begin reaching certain milestones: getting married, having kids, buying a house, getting a car, reaching a specific salary level in their business or career.
To some extent, there is a certain amount of fulfillment associated with the various milestones of life, but to be clear, true happiness doesn’t come from money, things, or success. I have known several people who have achieved more success and accumulated more wealth than you can possibly imagine that were unfulfilled despite their perceived advantage.
Personal fulfillment is a fundamental desire of most everyone. But before fulfillment can be realized to any great extent, you must first establish a sense of self-confidence to believe you can, in fact, find and experience fulfillment. Once self-confidence and self-esteem are established, you’ll need a challenge or a cause to feel satisfied―a way to express your individuality and contribution to the world and, just as importantly, to yourself.
So, what’s the secret? How can you find fulfillment and how can you begin living a fulfilled life? Everyone is different of course, but there are common strategies that can lead you to your unique goal of personal fulfillment. I often tell people that they can have, be, do, or become anything in life they desire with one simple method―Ask! With that in mind, here are four key questions to ask yourself as you consider the many ways in which you can discover your own fulfilled life.
1. What are some of the most memorable experiences of your childhood? What activities did you find most fulfilling?
Yup, we went there―your childhood. I try not to play the role of a psychologist when I can avoid it, but it only makes sense that a lot of our psychological and emotional influences are connected to our initial (childhood) programming.
If you think about it, the things you enjoyed as a child gave you the most fulfillment and managed to keep your interest for a time. Your experiences shaped you. If you didn’t care for something you likely had little patience for it and don’t remember much of the experience, aside from perhaps a dislike of the activity or experience.
Therefore, it only makes sense that your most influential programming came from your most influential (and memorable) experiences. These experiences made an impression on you and will always play a role in the perceptions you have of the world. While most of us “grew up” and found new interests, there are those among us that remain closely connected to the passions that continue to bring a great deal of personal fulfillment.
So, take some time to reflect on the things you enjoyed as you were growing up. As you do, pay close attention to the way you feel as the memories of your youthful programming come to life. Your feelings provide insight to the programming that is intimately connected to your emotional center. As the memories become increasingly clear to you, be sure to hone in on those that resonate the most. Any manner of positive emotional “stir” is a pretty good clue that you’re beginning to rediscover the pathway to your source of fulfillment.
As you continue to gain clarity on the elements of your fulfillment, make a list of everything that elicits a positive emotion, no matter how insignificant it may seem at first. Maybe it’s sports, music, a particular activity, topic, or interest. Once you have a list, start small and take action by reengaging in some of the very things that are connected to your list. By the way, you're never too old.
Once you rediscover your emotional connections, look for a way to use your passions and interests to enrich your life and the lives of others. In other words, do something about it.
And keep in mind that your interest doesn’t have to be connected to financial gain. As I initially explained at the outset of this article, the best reward of personal fulfillment is intrinsic. And you can take that to the emotional bank! That’s not to say, however, that your fulfillment cannot bring you overwhelming abundance. Some of the happiest and most fulfilled people I know are operating squarely in their lane of passion while making a very good standard of living. The key with these people is in the value they bring to others through their personal fulfillment sources.
2. What are your core values and beliefs?
It sounds like a simple question, but it’s far from simple. Your values and beliefs are driven by the perceptions you have of the world. Your perceptions are formed by the encounters and life experiences you have had that have become an integral part of your psychological programming. As I have said many times before, the good news is that you can re-write that program anytime you like.
You have a choice. You can accept certain values simply because you’ve been programmed on their importance, or you can form new values and beliefs based on a determination to evolve beyond where you are into a new life where you value new ideals. That ideal mate, for example, may cripple your heart and soul because they are not the right match for you. The neighborhood you desire to become a part of may not be the one that truly feeds your happiness and contentment. The secret is to stop waiting for external factors to bring you fulfillment.
So, go back to your list and write down the values that are important to you. For example, some people value integrity, friendship, loyalty, and faith while others value humor, compassion, patience, or spontaneity. Rank each value on a scale of 1 to 10, from the most important to the least. By the way, almost all values are good, but understanding which is most important to you will help you understand what will bring meaning to your life. The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to consider how other people will feel. This is not a time to look at things from the outside-in, but rather a time for inward reflection. Once you have “you” right, then you will become a much more powerful influence on the lives of others according to your standards, values, and tolerances.
Consider taking on an activity that neutralizes, minimizes, or constrains the distractions, such as meditation, yoga or even a more dramatic activity that forces you to focus on the one thing you’re doing at the moment. The objective here is to step away, as much as possible, from your customary comfort zone, so that the roles you typically play are stripped away.
A sole reliance on your own initiative to survive and thrive is transformative. Patience is the watchword here as these things can take time to develop. But collectively and cumulatively, these experiences will produce a spark that will ignite a brand new process of introspect and personal growth, eventually leading to clarity that will emerge from the process.
3. What goals should you set for yourself?
Take stock of each segment of your life and make a note of what you visualize as the ultimate goal in each area. Include your career, family, health, relationships, spirituality, and travel desires. Ask yourself: What does my best health look like? Who are the people I most want to spend time with? What do I want to change most? Where does my true contentment lie? Where can I make the most significant impact?
Write down your goals and make a habit of visualizing each one on a daily basis. Make it “you-centric”. You, running a marathon; you being in top physical shape; you leading others to a better life; you and your family enjoying dinner together; you and your partner building a home for the needy or embarking on a mission trip to an underdeveloped country. Whatever it is you see that connects you with happiness and contentment should be considered as a possible path to fulfillment.
“If you don’t set your own goals, you will end up living someone else’s.” ~ G. Westfal
Your personal fulfillment is intimately connected to the contentment you feel and the worth you assign to the value of your life. If you’re unhappy or discontent, something is missing or out of sync. Don’t be afraid to identify it and do something about, even if you take just a few small steps at first. Some movement is better than no movement at all.
4. What is your legacy?
The lasting impression you make on the lives of others supports your legacy. Your legacy has less to do with the physical things you leave behind as an inheritance and more with what you do during your life to positively affect the lives of others. So, to gain insight on the impact of your legacy, you should start by asking yourself how you would like to be remembered by those whose lives you have touched. As you think about the description of your legacy you should evaluate whether or not you are already doing something to contribute to that legacy. If so, great! If not…well, you already know what your next move should be.
The unfortunate truth is that there is a great majority of people who are likely to describe their life as unfulfilled. It doesn’t have to be that way. Fulfillment can be found in so many ways. Consider asking yourself the questions that require you to be honestly accountable to the number one person who truly matters – You! Because, when you get you right, YOU will have the greatest impact on others and will ultimately find the fulfillment you seek.
Until next time…
~ G ~
"It's never too late to be what you might have been" ~ George Eliot
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