What if fulfillment was about you, rather than your circumstances, rather than what happens to you?
What if fulfillment wasn’t the result of achieving more and more and more, but rather a natural state of being?
Some people believe the key to fulfillment in life is to focus on the outer world — more money, more material possessions, a better career.
Some believe the opposite — that the gift of fulfillment can only be brought by inner peace, regardless of the condition you’re in.
The truth? It seems to be somewhere in between.
Your best bet is to have a holistic approach, to look at the big picture. Because fulfillment comes from who you are, where you are, and what you have.
Just like truly beautiful people are beautiful outside and inside. Just like optimal wellbeing is great mental and physical health.
Lack of fulfillment in today’s society
We are very lucky.
Despite all the financial crises, a growing level of uncertainty, competition, and change — we live in times where, at least in theory, fulfillment is very easy to achieve compared to centuries ago.
There are now many more resources to achieve financial stability, career fulfillment, better health, and fulfillment in relationships.
Put simply, the average person today probably has a better quality of life to that of the pharaohs 3,500 years ago.
So you would assume that as society advances, our fulfillment in life also advances. Which, in a way, it does.
But why is it that so many people are still unhappy? I’m not referring to victims of violence, poverty, abuse, or any of that. I’m referring to those who have access to all basic needs (and more) and are still miserable.
Are we doomed to never find peace? To never feel satisfied, to chase happiness for decades and end up realizing it was an illusion?
No. And I think the best way to understand why is to look at the definition of fulfillment — what it is, and why we feel (or don’t feel) fulfilled.
What is lack of fulfillment?
You can say that fulfillment is the feeling of having achieved, or reached, one’s potential.
Fulfillment is about self-realization. Fulfillment is about happiness.
Lack of fulfillment is the opposite. It’s the feeling that you are not where you should be, that you haven’t reached happiness in life.
The point I’d like you to consider: fulfillment is about you. Although it’s not as simple as “being positive”, it has to do with your emotions, your feelings, your outlook on life.
So to truly find fulfillment, you must reach your potential and choose to be fulfilled.
You must work toward what makes you happy, but know that happiness will never be there unless you allow it.
Lack of fulfillment may be caused by…
1. Lack of gratitude
This is, usually and in most cases, the main reason behind lack of fulfillment. It’s the root cause, what’s left once you remove all the superficial layers.
Gratitude naturally leads to a higher level of fulfillment. It’s also free, and doesn’t require any effort or skill. Nor does it require a lot of time.
But it seems we human beings have forgotten how important it is. We no longer practice gratitude.
Want to know the easiest way to practice it? Make it a habit. It really is that simple. Make gratitude your number one habit that brightens each day.
Keep a gratitude journal, or simply learn to appreciate the little things in life. When things go your way, appreciate that; when they don’t, know it could be way worse.
2. Lack of purpose
What’s the purpose of life? Why do you wake up in the morning? Hint: don’t think of anything too philosophical or spiritual. It doesn’t have to be your ultimate purpose in life.
Your purpose can be as simple as… what you’d like to do. A goal, an intention that makes you happier as you work toward it.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to take ten years. It doesn’t have to be a source of income. It doesn’t have to be unique, either.
The second reason behind lack of fulfillment can be lack of purpose. So if you haven’t already, take the time to determine what makes you happy, what drives you, and then do it. Whatever it is.
3. Feeling trapped
Feeling stuck in a lifestyle that’s not for you? Do you feel the urge to leave everything behind, to do something different?
We feel fulfillment when we believe our life aligns with our values, purpose, and talents. In other words, when we live the life that’s meant for us.
Do the opposite and the result is lack of fulfillment. And frustration. And boredom, and the feeling that your time and energy are being wasted.
So what do you do if you feel stuck? You take the leap… if you can. Otherwise, you still work toward something different, even if it takes longer.
4. Poor health
I can’t think of any issue in life where a better level of health wouldn’t help with. Think about it. Health is power. More health means more vitality, mental clarity, and discipline.
It also means more happiness. And more fulfillment! Great health itself is the achievement of one’s potential.
Think of health and wellbeing as the tools that help you build the foundation of fulfillment in life. And the tools that instantly bring more fulfillment in your life.
To create a life you love, you need health. To enjoy it, you need health. Physical and mental wellbeing will always be a priority no matter what you’d like to achieve and/or experience.
5. Living in the past
Life is about becoming, not being. When you live in the past, you prevent growth. When you are present, you allow growth. And fulfillment.
And it turns out, it’s actually pretty difficult to be present. From the exact moment we wake up, we go through routines and rituals that basically remind us of who we used to be.
Especially if you use social media. I guess that’s why those who have done a social media detox say that once they were liberated from their online profile, they also felt they had more freedom in their life.
In other words, they were able to live in the present, to appreciate the present moment as if it’s the only thing they had.
Because to be fair, although life is also made of memories and plans for the future, the present moment is the only thing we really get to experience.
Here is one of the ways people subconsciously sabotage their own happiness, fulfillment, and self-esteem: the toxic cycle of comparison. The idea that to be successful, you must reach someone else’s success.
Being inspired by others is great. But you just can’t compare your life to that of anyone else. Because when you do, you are being unfair to yourself. And you’re actually making it harder to reach your potential.
Think of comparing as copying. You don’t want to copy anyone. Because you can’t! It’s impossible — you have to follow your nature, which is absolutely unique.
You have to find your own beauty, your own talents, your own happiness. Your own greatness. Someone else may inspire you to do that. But compare yourself to them and expect lack of fulfillment.
Though I wouldn’t encourage anyone to go and live in a forest, we do need to be mindful when using technology.
We live in times where we can use technology for basically everything. We can, but we shouldn’t. Not always, anyway.
Because the more we use technology (e.g. messaging instead of going out and meeting people in person), the more we are detached from the real world, the more we feel unfulfilled.
My advice would be: don’t always do what’s easy and convenient. Do what feels right, what’s better.
Talking is better than texting. Walking is better than driving. Cash is better than cards. Hugging is better than a hug emoji. That is, in most cases, and depending on a lot of factors. But still.
8. Unrealistic standards
What if good enough was actually good enough? What if you’ve set the bar so high you’ll never achieve anything?
There is a fine line between goal setting and perfectionism. The key is to grow and evolve as a person and feel fulfilled right now, as you’re growing.
You don’t want to attach the idea of fulfillment to some unachievable, unreachable goal. If you do, you’re basically destined to be miserable because:
- You’ll never actually achieve what you want to achieve
- What you (don’t) achieve should not dictate how you feel about yourself
When was the last time you visited a new place? Or did something new or unusual in general?
Doing the same thing every day can be an excellent recipe for success. It can also lead to lack of fulfillment. We humans do need change from time to time.
Try out new things. Experiment. Do something that would surprise the person you were yesterday.
At worst, it’ll be interesting. At best, you’ll discover a new life and a new you as well. Traveling is the perfect example. But you don’t need to travel, you just need to be curious.
10. The wrong goals
One of the worst mistakes you can ever make when setting goals is to set someone else’s goals. This is one of the ways comparison can negatively affect you, as explained earlier.
To set goals that actually mean something to you, ask the following questions:
- If money wasn’t an issue, what would I create, experience, or be?
- If time wasn’t an issue, what would I create, experience, or be?
- If I could start from scratch, what would my life look like?
- What brings joy regardless of other people’s thoughts?
- If this was the last month/year of my life, what would I do?
- What does total freedom look like to me?
11. Needs vs wants
Lack of fulfillment can also be caused by the (mistaken) belief that all your wants are also needs. There is nothing wrong with wanting, and wanting more. But to confuse that with actual needs is a fundamental mistake.
When you need things, you are saying to yourself that you are incomplete, that you need stuff to feel happy. When you simply want, you are happy in the first place.
Needing nothing attracts everything. It also attracts happiness and fulfillment. Whenever you catch yourself saying I need this, see if it actually corresponds to the truth.
Chances are it doesn’t, and you’re making yourself miserable by attaching so much meaning and importance to things you don’t actually need.
12. False responsibility
Do you always feel sorry for others? Do you believe you are responsible not just for your own happiness, but also the happiness of those around you?
That’s only going to cause lack of fulfillment. Don’t get me wrong: helping others, being compassionate, contributing to the world — that’s going to make you and others happier.
The issue is the sense of responsibility or, I should say, false responsibility. Because it makes you want to control things you have no control over.
It’s similar to the concept of wants vs needs. You want to be in a position, you want to have the mindset where you want to help others even though you don’t see it as a responsibility.
13. Fear of change
Lastly, do you know what would lead to a more fulfilling life, but can’t find the courage to go for it? Or do you just seem to always put it off for whatever reason?
It could be fear of change. Fear of uncertainty, fear of the unknown. You’ll never change if you resist change. And you’ll lack fulfillment.
The easiest way to change (in my opinion)? Don’t identify with anything in particular. Don’t say “I am”, or “I have”. Don’t identify with the person you are now, with the environment you are in now.
Basically, allow yourself to be whoever you want. Give yourself permission to say goodbye to old habits, your old routine, the old you. Because they are not you! They don’t define you.
Fulfillment ≠ Perfection
One last thing… which can be applied to personal growth in general: don’t chase perfection. Work toward a better life, not a perfect life.
When it comes to lack of fulfillment, think of it this way: you will never reach the ultimate, most perfect, greatest level of fulfillment. That’s a bad way of looking at it.
Life is imperfection. Chasing perfection itself will guarantee lack of fulfillment!
Work toward a more fulfilling life, but know you’ll never actually achieve total fulfillment. Work toward it, but don’t expect it.
It may seem counterintuitive at first, but that’s just how it works.