Forget trying to be happy all the time. If you’ve been living on this planet for a few decades, you probably recognize that’s not possible. Once you give up that expectation, what is realistic to hope for? The answer is to lead a more satisfying and fulfilling life.
Satisfaction and fulfillment aren’t based on the past—your crummy childhood, streaks of bad luck, or unfortunate genetics. It’s based on what you do NOW that creates your tomorrow.
Toward that end, here are some tips for enjoying a satisfying and fulfilling life.
4 Steps To Lead a More Satisfying and Fulfilling Life
1. Focus on the Positive
Sure you’ve heard this advice before (and may even be tired of hearing it). But the truth is that, most of us (including me) need to be reminded of this wisdom repeatedly. Humans are hardwired to fixate on life’s negatives. So focus on the positive – but be very specific.
Look at what you’ve achieved, NOT where you’ve failed, what you haven’t done, or what you have yet to do. This approach is part of success psychology. Simply put, if you have a project to complete, feel good about what you’ve accomplished so far.
For example: I’m writing this blog to take a break from transferring 1,000 of my archived blogs to my website from another site. So far, I’ve transferred 200 to my web manager. I need to keep telling myself how terrific it is that I’ve done so many, or I’ll lose momentum by thinking I should have done more before taking a break, or start sweating over the 800 I have yet to do.
The key to this dynamic is to keep yourself feeling good: I feel proud that I’ve done 200. This keeps me motivated to transfer more blogs when I’m done writing. If I were to focus on the 800 remaining, I’m sure I’d be bummed out – and it would be hard to psych myself to return to this task.
2. Forget Perfection (most of the time)
Perfectionists are rarely satisfied or fulfilled. They’re always looking to do better. Rather than enjoying success, they’re thinking of how much better they could have done, how much better they’ll do in the future, or how to keep up the high standards they’ve set for themselves.
Well, the truth is, maybe they will do better – and maybe they won’t. Maybe how they did was as good as it’s going to get.
I strongly encourage people to know when and where they truly need to excel, and when they don’t. If you’re my gastroenterologist, I certainly hope you’ll want to do a near perfect job when I have my next colonoscopy.
But frankly I don’t care much what kind of a skier you are, or whether the inside of your jeep is clean. Satisfaction comes from a job well done, NOT perfectly done. So reign in that tendency to go all out all the time.
I recommend what I call the “basket” approach: Mentally label several baskets regarding expectations and standards. My baskets are labelled “excellent”, “good enough,” and “I don’t care very much.” I want to be an excellent therapist, a good enough writer, and I don’t care very much about making my office look stylish or modern.
3. Know What Fulfills You
I see so many clients who are living out someone else’s dream – but not theirs. Know what rings your chimes and what doesn’t. Consider your beliefs, lifestyle, and values.
Does what you’re doing most of the time mesh with who you want to be? You will never have a fulfilling life if you’re trying to please someone else (dead or living). You will always come up short in that department, no matter how hard you work at it.
I know it’s cavalier of me to suggest that you switch careers, move to a different locale, or reconsider your attachment to your romantic partner. My guess is that you like any of these things well enough, or you would have made changes already.
But, maybe not. How many of us marry the person our parents picked out for us? Go into the career that we trained for to make others happy? Live in a place of our choosing rather than where we happened to end up in?
4. Allow Yourself To Feel Enjoyment
I’ve written seven books and my favorite part of the process is the writing. I have writer friends who are constantly thinking about marketing and how well their books are doing, competing against how well their last book or someone else’s did.
Competition and winning can be enjoyable – but those moments are fleeting. The idea is to enjoy the process that gets you there as well as your success.
Alternately, I have clients who are highly uncomfortable experiencing joy, satisfaction, and especially pride. Pride truly is a glorious feeling like none other. It is one that comes from satisfaction that leads to a fulfilling life.
I know this post is sort of mundane with no ground-breaking information in it. But I enjoyed writing it—thinking about the subject and putting words together to make my thoughts (hopefully) understandable and useful.
If you want to experience satisfaction and fulfillment, you’d better be comfortable with positive feelings. If you’re not, but believe you must always struggle, or that it’s wrong to feel proud, you’ll never live your best life.
Take a hard look at what you learned in childhood about feeling great about not only the hard work it takes to succeed, but also about success. Many people are brought up only to appreciate and value struggle. They’re the opposite of those who value the destination, not the journey.
Either set of values is incomplete. To feel fulfilled and satisfied, you must be able to enjoy each part of moving toward your goals: the doing and the completion of doing. That will eventually lead you to a more fulfilling life.