If I asked you whether you wanted to feel fulfilled in your life – your work, your relationships, your contribution – you’d probably give a wholehearted YES, right? But if I asked how you could actually create that feeling: what brings fulfilment in life, or how we can know when we’re fully experiencing it, you wouldn't be alone if you found it a bit harder to articulate.
Fulfilment is the answer to making a positive difference in the world without burning ourselves out. And yet many of us aren’t really clear on exactly what we mean by it, or how we can take practical steps to find fulfilment if it’s missing. Today I’m going to share 4 powerful questions you can ask yourself to discover how much fulfilment you’re currently experiencing in your life – and what you could do to increase it.
Fulfilment isn't static
Before we start, a quick note on one thing I know to be true: Change is inevitable. As time goes by, what brings you fulfillment will also change. So if you find yourself wondering why something you once found fulfilling seems to have lost its sheen, don’t worry: There’s nothing wrong, and you haven’t made a “mistake”.
The trick to finding fulfillment throughout your life is to choose your activities wholeheartedly accordingly to what brings you fulfilment at each stage of your life… and then when that particular season of your life comes to an end, know that you can transition, and pivot into something new. You don’t have to burn bridges or forgo commitments.
What's your life's work right now?
In the following questions, I use the word “work” to describe your day to day activities. At BeFulfilled, the two-day retreat where we explore these themes in more detail, we use the phrase “life’s work” as a nod to the fact that this doesn’t have to refer to paid work or a career. Your life’s work might be:
- Raising children
- Making art
- Being a carer for someone you love
- Giving back to your community in some way.
How to use these questions
You might want to grab your journal and jot down your thoughts on these 4 points, or simply sit and think about how you’d answer them. Or why not forward this article to a friend and take it in turns to ask each other these questions?
However you choose to explore, it's worth taking the time to consider which of these ingredients might need a little more attention in your life right now.
4 ingredients of a fulfilled life
1. Do you find MEANING in your current work?
The first ingredient to fulfilment is meaning.
Finding meaning in what you’re doing doesn’t have to mean you’re engaged in profound or even stimulating activities every moment of every day. Raising children is certainly a meaningful job, but it sure as hell involves plenty of less-than-meaningful activities – most of them involving bodily fluids.
Perhaps your work has you mired in spreadsheets or grappling with awkward clients more often than you’d like, but overall do you feel a sense of meaning behind what you do? Does it fit into a bigger picture you’re invested in – whether for you personally, for your family, or for the planet?
Which leads me to the second ingredient when it comes to feeling fulfilled:
2. Does your work allow you to make a CONTRIBUTION in some way?
Contribution is the feeling that you’re giving something through the work you do. That you’re making a difference to the planet, or your community, or to other people. It will look very different for everyone.
It might be voluntary work that makes a difference to your local community. A position in academia that helps move research forward. Feeling that you're developing and growing your team into truly outstanding individuals.
To what extent do you feel that your current work allows you to give something back to the world?
3. Does your work bring you JOY?
I’m not suggesting that fulfillment can only arrive when you’re in a state of constant happiness. (For starters, I’m not actually sure that exists). But if we don’t have an enthusiasm for what we’re doing each day, it’s hard to have a sense that we’re really as fulfilled as we could be.
Joy is a feeling that many of us weren’t taught to look for in our work, and yet when we experience it, it can be a catalyst for profound change and impact that’s far easier than if you’re gritting your teeth and “pushing through” each day.
How much joy do you currently experience? How could you find more?
The final ingredient is one that feels great when we get to really experience it:
4. Does your work give you opportunities for EXCELLENCE?
Whether it’s cleaning, coaching or managing million-dollar budgets, when you’re truly excellent at whatever it is you’re doing there’s an unparalleled feeling of satisfaction that arises. Excellence occurs when your gifts, talents and abilities are utilized to the full, so that you’re really aware that you’re doing your very best work.
Excellence is something we often value greatly in others but can sometimes find it hard to acknowledge in ourselves. Try thinking about the moments when you are most “in your flow” – when time seems to pass without you noticing, and you’re fully absorbed in whatever it is you’re doing. Often, they’re the times when you’re working in your most excellent way – and can lead to a sense of intense fulfillment when you look back at what you’ve achieved.
The fulfilment paradox
Of course, while we can identify certain ingredients that can lead to feeling fulfilled, it’s also true that fulfillment is just a feeling. An emotional state. There’s no litmus test anyone can perform to decide whether or not you “should” be feeling fulfilled right now.
If you’d like to explore the idea of fulfillment more deeply, or if you’re at a point where things are shifting and you know you’re being called to adapt what once worked for you, get in touch with our team to find out what tools and programs might make all the difference.
I’d love to know what you found came up for you as you read these questions. Are there any others you’d add? Share in the comments below.
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