For the most basic of definitions, a fulfilled life is a life with meaning. But isn’t that so vague?
Fulfillment is one of those Big Words that I truly believe is subjective (like happiness, success, and contentment), and that makes it truly tricky to define and contain.
Is being fulfilled based on what you own or reaching your full potential? Is it based on your job description? Wealth? Or how much risk you’re willing to take in life? What meaning should I attach to my life for it to be fulfilling?
The good news is you have full control over what exactly Fulfillment will mean to you, the bad news is you have to work for it. You have to be very intentional about defining it. (Okay, so maybe it’s not such bad news.)
Either way, let me offer 10 suggestions on how to go about this:
1) Find your relaxation.
What do you do on your days off?
When you dream of having free time, what does this dream include?
When is your brain at its calmest, most relaxed? At your happiest?
Identify those and do more of it.
- Why you should find your relaxation: In a world of constant responsibilities and unending to-do lists, it’s easy to feel burdened and weary. Finding time for relaxation can help ease that feeling.
From a scientific perspective, participating in or doing activities that will increase your “happy hormones” will help you regulate your mood.
I’m not going to suggest specific activities for relaxation because it’s different for each individual: from completing a thousand-piece puzzle to meal prepping healthy meals. Find yours and do more of it.
And I have long since rejected the idea of rest being a reward for our productivity. Rest is as important as the work itself. You don’t have to “earn” your rest. You’re allowed to relax and slow down.
2) Find your passion.
If money is no object, what would you rather do?
What keeps you going?
The driving force of your being, what is it?
I feel like I’ve been asking you so many questions but it’s my way of hoping that I can help you arrive at the answer yourself, this time regarding your passion. It’s a very personal journey for each person after all.
- Why you should find your passion: It’s something to look forward to, and when things get rough, it’s a reminder. It’s our Why.
And while I’m very big on the Why of things, I need to clarify that passions don’t need to be grand or world-changing. I think that’s where we feel paralyzed, you know? When we think our dreams, goals, passions, and purpose are too small to change the world.
News flash: they don’t have to. They could just be to make you happy or happier. More fulfilled, you know?
3) Find your peace (of mind).
Honestly, finding your peace (or peace of mind) is easier said than done, especially when the world feels as though it’s constantly burning. But try.
I feel sheepish trying to define this right now because I often find myself dragged down by all the negativity of the world. I’m so prone to doom-scrolling, my cortisol levels can attest to this.
But I do what I can, you know? I paint. I listen to music. I remind myself that I am here now and I am okay.
- Why you should find your peace: To center yourself, among other things. To ground yourself.To remind yourself that things will work out for the best.
Like the other things on this list, what you will find peaceful will be different from other people. For all I know, you find peace in swimming with sharks (figuratively and literally) and that’s your journey, so good for you.
Finding your peace is similar to finding your relaxation but long-term. And once you find your peace, protect it.
4) Live within your means but don’t deprive yourself.
The finance people might hate me for this hot take but here it is: Live within your means but don’t deprive yourself.
Hear me out.
When you just constantly deprive yourself of your splurges or little luxuries, there’s a tendency to overdo it once you indulge. It’s the same energy as someone overeating during cheat days because they only have one day.
- Why you should live within your means without depriving yourself: You deserve to have the things that will make you happy without feeling guilty over it. (Looking at you, people who disapprove of others buying their daily coffee.)
But you should also be accountable for your finances for the longer term. Think of it as taking care of your future self, because we want our future self to thrive, too. (But on #8, I’ll explain why you shouldn’t look too far ahead either.)
Money is such a big stressor for people and living within your means is a step closer to setting yourself up for success.
5) Look inward as much as possible.
There’s this quote that I don’t know who to attribute to and to be honest, I can’t even remember where I came across it, but it rings very true: There is no harm without comparison.
Let’s stew in that a little bit. A lot of us, myself included, feel smaller when we compare our life’s trajectory to others. So and so got a promotion, so and so got married or bought a new house, or is traveling the world.
There’s a tendency to compare your life to theirs even without meaning to. Even if you’re happy for your peers, there’s still that feeling of “What About Me?” that’s difficult to shrug off.
- Why you should look inward as much as possible: Comparing yourself and your life to others will just bring you unnecessary pressure. And for a fulfilling life, we’re aiming for fewer worries and fewer anxieties over things we can control.
We can’t control the world and the way it moves around us, but we can control how we react to it. I hope you choose the kindest for yourself.
Speaking of comparison…
6) Accept that social media is a highlight reel.
If you’re constantly bombarded by posts of people living their absolute best lives, it’s easier to feel bad about your own. And like I said just now, that’s even when you don’t want to.
At this point, social media isn’t even just about people immediately around you; there are influencers, targeted ads, celebrities, and brand profiles out there. In a world of both consumerism, materialism, and vanity, everyone’s presenting their best foot forward.
That isn’t bad, per se, I’m not judging people for wanting to celebrate themselves but we should also be aware of this. We can’t or at least shouldn’t make this the baseline for our happiness.
And with consumerism at the forefront of so many parts of social media, it can add to the discontent of not having everything. (Social media affects consumer behavior, after all.)
- Why you should accept that social media is a highlight reel: A good majority of people only show the best things about their lives. To keep up is to struggle because there’s always going to be something new to have, own, or be.
It’s an obstacle to feeling fulfilled about your life when social media shows you how different other people’s lives are.
Alright, let’s move on from the topic of comparing yourself to others. For the next 3 points, it will be you versus yourself (which, if you ask me, is a tougher battle.)
7) Accept your past for what it was.
I constantly cringe about my past and I’m okay with that.
My goodness, I was such an edgy teenager (I’m sure a lot of us were) and that was even the case until my early 20s. Oh, how I cringe at who I used to be.
But I know that cringing or laughing about my past, with all my uninformed opinions and stupid mistakes, comes from a place of growth.
I get it though, it’s sometimes difficult to forget about past blunders (hello, anxiety) but work towards acceptance. Or better yet, forgiveness.
You’re not that person anymore so it’s okay to say goodbye to that version of you.
- Why you should accept your past for what it was: You will grow from it. This is not exclusive to mistakes and regrets, by the way!
This also includes not getting stuck over old work and thinking that your best era is behind you. It isn’t. You’re capable of growth. You’re good now, you’re allowed to think that about yourself.
Let go to grow.
With that said…
8) Don’t live your life just chasing what could be.
Inversely, constantly chasing the future is a very specific kind of discontentment. It’s frustrating and frankly tiring to always anticipate the next 20 steps ahead.
If living in the past is thinking you have already reached your full potential, then constantly thinking about the future is thinking you’re not capable now. And you’re capable now as I just said.
- Why you should not live your life chasing what could be: When you constantly struggle to try to reach the finish line, you’re never going to see the progress you’ve already made.
You can make plans and hope for the very best but you still won’t have control over the future.
There’s a difference in planning for your future compared to just being anxious about the next hundred steps. All. The. Time.
Do you know what you can control? Uh-huh, you guessed it, the present…
9) Live in the present.
Focus more on what you can control.
I’m also guilty of this, always chasing the next best thing. The next most sparkly, the newest, the most advanced, the most this the most that.
- Why you should live in the present: Because it’s what will directly affect you.
It’s agitating to constantly be in pursuit of the future while hoping to change the past, both of these actions prevent us from experiencing the moment.
I love that one Facebook quote I kept seeing, “You’re currently living one of your answered prayers.” Even my non-religious self saw the truth in that.
How will you feel fulfilled if you constantly feel like there is more to be had? Why can’t you enjoy now for what it is? Goals are great to have, don’t get me wrong, but so is gratitude for the present.
10) Find what you value.
How do you feel like you’re doing enough?
What do you consider a success?
What will make you feel as though you’ve made it? Like, this is it, this is your peak! Is it money? A partner? Kids? An amazing career? The quiet? Freedom? Independence? All of these?
Find what that is for you. Find what you value. Determine what you wish to keep close to your chest. Your reason why, like passion.
- Why you should find what you value: If passion is the driving force, what you value is the destination.
For example, I value my art, so all the steps I do in my life are working towards that. I feel fulfilled when I do something that adds to my love for my art.
It’s what I keep close to my chest, I work towards it constantly and my dreams are towards that, too. Art is what I value but it’s going to be different for you and everyone else.
So like I said at the very beginning, Fulfillment is one of those Big Words that are difficult to define because it’s such a personal journey.
From passions to peace, from living in the now to finding ways to relax, that looks different for everybody! I hope this list helped give you direction or clarity regarding those though.
But take your time, okay? If you have to take one step at a time, then so be it. Lessen unnecessary pressure on yourself and that includes overthinking how to feel fulfilled in life. (That’s kinda counterproductive, haha!)
Going forward, I hope these points will be present in your life when you’re ready to define and experience them. At your own pace, bestie.
And here is my very extra and unnecessary ending to this article: May you find what you seek and may you enter your best, most fulfilled era yet.