From an early age, we are taught that all of life centers around finding happiness. But as we get older we find that the idea of happiness can be so elusive and mostly intangible.
After all, what is happiness?
According to Wikipedia, happiness in the context of mental or emotional states is positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Other forms include life satisfaction, well-being, subjective well-being, or flourishing. I love this definition, but for some, it might cause further confusion. The takeaway is that “happiness” is largely defined as an emotional state of being. And while this is good, it can also be fleeting. Emotions, as you know, come and go and change and morph into other emotions.
On top of that, happiness is different for everyone, so how do you know when you find it? Is there an end game? And is there something out there that can make you feel even better than happiness?
The short answer is: Yes! It’s called having a sense of fulfillment. Ah okay, what is that exactly, and how do you get it? That’s what we’re here today to find out.
So, keep reading to learn how you can stop chasing a sometimes elusive feeling of happiness to find true and lasting fulfillment instead.
Happiness vs. Fulfillment
Take a look at this quick overview of happiness vs. fulfillment.
Happiness includes feelings like contentment, excitement, and joy. But they are usually temporary.
It feels nice while it lasts, but if circumstances change other emotions can take over, like anger, fear, and anxiety.
The trap many fall into is believing we’ll reach our point of happiness (end game) when we achieve certain goals in our lives.
You might say, “When I buy that Tesla, I’ll be happy.” or “Once I have my own living space, I’ll finally be happy.” You might experience a greater sense of contentment or freedom, but not necessarily lasting happiness.
You’ll be happy at the moment! But, how long will that happiness last? Once reality sets in, i.e, the bills start rolling in it might change your state of mind.
Another big problem with chasing happiness is that we often view it through the lens of other people. We compare our lives to others, which is never a good idea.
No one knows what’s going on in other people’s lives. So it’s silly to compare only what appears to be the positive aspects. This can thrust you into a loop of perpetual disappointment, tearing up your self-esteem along the way. The only person you should compare yourself to is you.
When you pursue the things that matter to you, you bring a sense of fulfillment and ease into your life. Fulfillment shows up when you take actionable steps toward what you value. You begin achieving goals that you designed based on your core values.
Living your life with a consistent set of values allows you to have integrity toward who you truly are. It also allows you more control over your emotions and thoughts.
This makes it possible to bring the locus of control inward. You begin to feel stronger and more empowered.
The bottom line is that happiness is mostly dependent on external factors. Many of these factors are material and likely to change at any moment.
Fulfillment, on the other hand, is internally driven. You’re the one who determines what has value to you, and then by going after it, you elevate the levels of fulfillment in your life.
How To Find Fulfillment
You can find fulfillment in many ways. But you have to choose to see it in every experience and situation in your life, especially those that don’t go your way.
It sounds more challenging than it is, but it’s relatively easy once you know what you’re doing. And it’s way more rewarding and empowering than chasing the ever-fleeting “feeling” of happiness.
Here are some ways to find fulfillment and bring true meaning to your life.
- Know Yourself (and STOP focusing on all these other people)
The great philosopher, Socrates, said, “Know Thyself” to encourage his students to look inward when searching for the meaning of life. So then, when you know your true nature, you can find fulfillment because you know who you are.
Try thinking of a moment when you felt most fulfilled (or energized, excited, motivated..you get the point). What about that specific event made you feel this way?
The more you know about yourself, the more fulfillment you’ll find in life. Remember, fulfillment isn’t about having a nice house or the latest fashion (although these do help!). It’s much deeper than that and much more nuanced.
It does take a bit of soul-searching. But it’s worth the time and effort to get to know yourself.
- Help Others with Your Gifts and Talents
You would be surprised at how helping others can be one of the best ways to identify what floats your boat. You will experience fulfillment by helping someone in need.
The science behind it is that helping others boosts the release of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in our brains. Some of these include hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin.
So, whether you’re helping a friend move, helping out at a local soup kitchen, or conducting a life-changing coaching session you’re bringing joy and ease into other people’s lives. Not only that, but you’re also experiencing more fulfillment.
- Create Positive Connections (and Ditch the Negative ones)
Surrounding yourself with a healthy, supportive social circle allows you to feel connected to something bigger than yourself. In addition, being part of something fosters a sense of fulfillment in your life.
You have people you can talk to whenever you feel sad or stressed out. Consequently, you minimize suffering from any feelings of isolation, disconnection, or separation.
4. Be Grateful
Having a sense of gratitude can help you see the purpose in life and feel like you’re connected to the greater good. Gratitude also boosts your overall health and encourages positive emotions, which can come in handy when you’re going through a tough time.
It also motivates you to strive for more. So when there’s a setback, you focus more on what you have and what you’ve accomplished rather than wallowing in your losses.
Being thankful each day can help you overcome difficult times and give you the strength and support you need to get back up and keep trying to reach your potential.
- Don’t be Afraid to Experiment
In many ways, life is one huge ongoing experiment. When you choose to view life this way, you no longer see your efforts as winning or losing. You can even see your failed attempts as learning and growing. That growth mindset of yours will keep you in the game. We don’t always know upfront exactly what projects or which people will give us the sense of fulfillment that we are looking for. That’s why keeping an open mind and being willing to view life as an experiment will encourage us to take action on our ideas and find our path.
Don’t be afraid to let go of your preconceived notions about “being happy” every minute of every day. Not only is that not realistic, but I’m also not sure if it is even possible. We live in a pretty fake world that places unrealistic expectations on everyone to be perfectly happy every waking minute of every day. I am a serial optimist and I’m telling you this is not only impossible but it is a recipe for disaster. Instead of seeking a state of perfect happiness, try finding true purpose and fulfillment in your life. This is a more sustainable and authentic way to live and will yield the lasting results that you’re after.
Be well + prosper,
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