What is ‘fulfilment’? What does it mean to live a fulfilling life? And why is ‘fulfilment’ so desired?
I believe everyone has their own definition of ‘fulfilment’, so rather than force-feed you my definition I am going to share a bit of my story to explain how I’ve come to think about fulfilment.
A few years ago, I thought I had everything sorted in life. I was in my mid-30’s, I had a management job that paid a six-figure salary and involved overseeing a multi-million dollar operational business with lots of travel and plenty of responsibility, I travelled for leisure regularly and stayed in five-star hotels, I had the latest gadgets, I ate at nice restaurants when I went out with friends, I drank nice wine when I came home from work. As far as most people were concerned, I had a great life. There was just one little problem.
I felt empty.
I felt empty because none of it was real. I was, by late 2011, $94,000 in debt thanks to my lifestyle. Yes, that’s right – $94,000. I was stuck in a job I hated, truly hated, because I was struggling to stay on top of my five credit cards and two personal loans, not to mention the ongoing cost of maintaining my day-to-day lifestyle, a lifestyle that never quite made me happy in the way I was hoping it would. I found myself in a position where happiness and fulfilment was always just around the corner – one more promotion, one more possession, one more holiday. It was a never-ending cycle of ‘Almost!’ and I allowed myself to be sucked in by it.
Thankfully, I broke down in late 2011 and again in early 2012 and had to reassess my entire life. It may seem surprising that I would say ‘thankfully’, however I truly believe that my nervous breakdowns – and the depression and anxiety that followed – happened for a reason. At the time though I was hardly thankful. I was severely depressed and having major panic attacks several times a day, and here I was with no job, no income and almost $100k in debt, faced with the humiliation of having to declare bankruptcy. It felt like my life was in ruins.
As I worked through my issues with my psychologist, it became clear to me that I had created a materially-focused life for myself because I was avoiding myself. By focusing my energy on the image I was projecting to the world, I could avoid having to look inside myself and avoid dealing with all the things I had been suppressing. Once I began to confront my personal issues, my life began to change for the better.
Fast-forward to 2014 and I feel like a completely different person. I’m happy, and my focus now is on being the best ‘me’ that I can be and achieving personal fulfilment. I have been fortunate to experience some moments of absolute fulfilment already, such as when I followed my heart and reached out to help a friend who I could see was struggling with her career and life options, and who is now on a new career path. In those moments I have felt more successful than I ever did in my ‘past’ life. Within those moments, I have discovered joy, purpose, satisfaction, happiness, fulfilment and so much more. More than words can ever express. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfilment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”
I, for one, think that’s a much better way to live life than being focused on the accumulation of ‘stuff’, stuff which can’t be taken with you when you die. Nobody is going to remember you for the stuff you owned or the size of your bank balance – they will remember you for the contributions you made to the world and the way that you lived your life. They will remember how you fulfilled your life’s potential. I’m so happy that I have a second chance to fulfil mine.