What would a fulfilling life look like to you? Most of us struggle with this question around fulfillment. And it could have to do with that we don’t have a shared understanding of what fulfillment is and how one goes about being fulfilled. We often start with our wants and desires. But I find fulfillment is a much deeper experience that’s not one size fits all. Fulfillment is intensely personal. So what may fulfill me, for example, may not fulfill my wife or our kids or friends.
Talking about fulfillment can also be a challenge. It brings up thoughts or feelings of not being satisfied or grateful with what we have. It also points to something missing in our lives, which we cannot quite figure out. We know when we’re unfulfilled because we feel there’s a gap or a lack of connection. Many of us are unclear of why that is. And this creates a hunger to figure it out. So we put our attention on the obvious.
We often associate fulfillment with external achievements such as wealth, success in business, social status or choice of lifestyle. We don’t have to look far into our own lives to know that the feelings we have around achievements are temporary and will fade. Every new experience in our lives (a new job, a new relationship, a vacation) will bring immediate ecstasy, joy and happiness. As the honeymoon phase expires we’re left empty again - unfulfilled.
Happiness and Feeling Good
The trouble with happiness or feeling good is they are very hard to sustain. Feelings of happiness are temporary at best. We can’t feel good all the time. If we connect fulfillment with feeling good or happy then what does that make of our life in between these moments? What happens when we’re not happy? Can we still be fulfilled?
Living Our Passions
Just like mom reminding you to eat your veggies. No one likes the stuff that’s good for you. Yes we can find fulfillment in our passions. However, some passions can be very lonely endeavours. When we look at our life too narrowly focused on discrete passions or our bucket list we tend to ignore other areas of our life in which we could find fulfillment.
What is fulfillment?
When I hear people talk about fulfillment they imagine a place where their life comes together, whole. It’s something to work towards. Like a destination. But it’s hard to plan for fulfillment, because fulfillment isn’t much of an achieved thing but a sense or way of being. We know when we’re fulfilled. We’re present in the moment. Where there is a sense of effortlessness or flow followed by a deep sense of satisfaction and an immense sense of being alive. Fulfillment is found in the now, on your journey.
When we break down fulfillment and what it means, we come to feelings or states of being whole or complete. Our lives are rich or “full” with purpose and meaning. Which is to say if we live a life on purpose, each moment is fulfilling. And what we’re seeking is how to be of service to others, foster connection and grow as a human being. So you can be a first-responder and be fulfilled in running into dangerous situations to save lives. Then come home to your children and being a loving partner, a best friend. To be this way it starts with making life choices rooted in you core values.
Fulfillment Now (Being Fulfilled Now)
When we coach purpose for individuals, we start with uncovering your core or essential values, because we’re not conscious of them, but they play a vital role in how we live our lives. Values are our inner wisdom. They’re the compass of the soul. They help you make choices. When everything in your life becomes an expression of your values you’ll experience a deeper, more intimate connection with your work, your relationships, your communities and your Self. When we live our values we have harmony, otherwise we experience frustration, discord or emptiness.
Outward achievements are great. They’ll mean more if they were a consequence of living your purpose or an expression of your values. The same goes with your passions and desires. And we all want to be happy. However, fulfillment can co-exist where there is struggle, difficulty or challenges. Living a purpose-driven life can be intense, heartbreaking and exhausting, but deeply fulfilling.
I would suggest for you to make time to reflect on your own personal values. Discuss them with a friend or find yourself a life coach who can lead you towards what’s deeply important to you. That’s your first step.
Charles Sue-Wah-Sing is a change agent and coach with WAY. WAY empowers individuals, executives, entrepreneurs and their organizations to navigate change with purpose and courage. Visit www.agentsofway.com for more information about our complimentary Discovery Session.