No matter how much money you make, how many of the finest restaurants you dine in or the amount of airmiles you accrue, there comes a time when you realise that this quality of pleasure only flows so deep. When a certain level of personal or business success has been reached, whereby privileges and luxuries become everyday habits, it’s not unusual for it to trigger an unexpected questioning of oneself and one’s purpose in life. As well as the discovery of all that is available for purchase, clear glimpses of what isn’t begin to filter through and unless we are living lives we utterly adore, it can have a major impact on our feelings and thought processes. This along with the realisation of how incredibly transient a companion happiness can be, leaves some aching for a return of its prodigal father, fulfilment.
When one thinks of fulfilment it is a concept of some stature, the word itself evoking a sense of ultimate peace, a thing which even when a moment has passed, still leaves its weighty imprint on the very slightest of memories. And, when it comes to admitting that success has left you wanting, fulfilment is often the gap yet to be filled, even if you’re at a loss of where to begin. The biggest challenge I’ve witnessed with clients is them allowing themselves to learn that not only is the feeling of fulfilment internal, but so too is the answer to what it will look like for them. For those who find themselves at the unexpected junction of success and fulfilment and not knowing which road to take next, here are some questions that may help to at least get you facing the right way…
What would you do for free?
There comes a time, usually during adolescence when we’re either taught or learn by osmosis that following our passions is not the sure-fire way to living a successful life. The success that is spoken of is often measured in terms of money, opportunity, respect and maybe even our ultimate contentment. Our focus is steered toward what makes sense in the outside world and away from what satisfies our senses in our internal one. What we then do is we focus on the people who are making meagre incomes and living unstable lives doing that thing we love and, we use this as fodder to forge ahead in an alternate direction. Unsurprisingly then, true fulfilment can often be found in or attached to these abandoned passions, the ones you know have followed you around your entire life, mostly ignored but still present like a faithful and patient servant. These passions may even have been disregarded for so long that they’ve turned into a fondness or an occasional nostalgic thought, but chances are they’re still there. Start loosening them by answering the question: In each decade of my life so far, what would I have done everyday, for free, if money and the judgement of others were of no concern? If there is any answer that spans multiple decades, explore it.
List what is missing from your life
Normally not one to promote a focus on the negative aspects of life, this is one of the rare exceptions and an important task. When living a life where we have proven the boundaries to be minimal, finding sources of true happiness or fulfilment is best done by sweeping aside all that is taken for granted anyway. What you then do is write a list of all the emotions, thoughts and experiences which you believe are currently missing from your life. It’s fast, dirty work with no self-censoring and the list is best kept away from any loved ones who may take offence. As you write, don’t question the feasibility of managing your own football club or scuba diving 11 months of the year, just write. Awareness of what fulfilment means to you is the very first step. Think about the following one after that.
If you could change one thing now, that you know will take you closer to fulfilment, what would it be?
This isn’t a question to mull over or to spend an age working out the answer to. This sort of information is not hidden from us, it’s programmed into our unconscious mind and will flow almost immediately. We only think it’s not there because of how practiced and speedily our brains are able to delete and distort feedback, based on what we think is appropriate, possible or fitting. No matter how surprising, write down your answers and then really think about them and their possibilities. Do not dismiss them.
Future pace your life
This is a powerful method of thinking and of clearly receiving information that you find hard to imagine from your current viewpoint. It’s surprisingly easy to do as well, it’s as simple as imagining yourself 20 years in the future, and then turning around to face the past and ask yourself, what is the experience I would have most loved to have? What are the actions that I wish I had tried? Then come back to now and go do those things.