By Seth Lusk
When we talk about life fulfillment, it can seem a little bit “out there”. Don’t worry, it is not because you are ignorant, or dense. The truth is that MOST PEOPLE, even scientific researchers struggle to articulate exactly what life fulfillment is. Our societal and economic structures also blur the picture of it quite a bit.
You see, most people when we talk about life fulfillment, have some very shallow, and unfulfilling concepts in their head that they stick together as being “life fulfillment”, and then do not see real value in achieving it. Things like happiness, and achievement tend to be the biggest mistaken ideas that people associate with meaning life fulfillment.
So, let’s look at what life fulfillment actually is, and why chasing happiness and achievement are not going to get us there. Life fulfillment is crucial. No one wants to get to the end of their life and look back on it and think “ok… so what?”. We all want to look back on our lives and think “wow… I lived that… I did that… I created that!”
So, how do we get there? Because life fulfillment is not just something we can say “oh yeah, I want that”, and then it appears in our life. We need to want it, we need to know what it is, we need to seek it, and we need to be intentional about feeling it in our life, if we want to experience life fulfillment.
Science has put together a few constructs or dimensions around what life fulfillment is, based on interviewing thousands upon thousands of people. And so far there appear to be 4 major dimensions to life fulfillment
1. The authentically unfolded, and expressed self in life.
2. Having a positive impact or legacy to leave behind
3. The belief that life is worthwhile (meaning that the time we put into pursuits feels worth the time spent on those pursuits.)
4. Having positive thoughts, stories, and feelings when viewing one’s life in retrospect.
So, let’s dissect these and take a look at what they each mean and how they contribute to life fulfillment.
The authentically unfolded, and expressed self has to do with a person spending time to intentionally get to know themselves at an authentic level. This means knowing their wants, values, and visions for life, without the pressures of others, or society weighing in on what they should want or do with their life.
But it does not stop and just knowing. It also moves out into planning how to express all of that in life around them. And this means deciding on how one will spend their time, where they will give their attention, what they will contribute to. It can also be about them seeing things in life around them that do not align with what is authentically important for them, and choosing to spend their time dismantling systems, or structures in life that contribute to suppressing those particular values.
This aspect of life fulfillment is about seeing, and knowing oneself. It is about intentionally taking the time to continue the journey of self-discovery, and to then choose a path in life that allows them to fully express that person. It means that when we discover where we are not expressing ourselves as our authentic self, then we get to work finding solutions in life, to change how we express ourselves through words, actions, contributions, even where we choose to not speak or take actions.
Are you authentically unfolding and expressing yourself in your life? This could be one of the biggest factors playing into a lack of life fulfillment. I find that with most of my coaching clients, their lack of feeling fulfilled stems from them expressing themselves in inauthentic ways, due to social pressuring, and forgetting who they truly are, and what they truly value in life.
Maybe it is time that you take a look at how you are unfolding, and expressing in this life.
When we talk about life fulfillment, we are going to think about things like what people will remember us by. The truth is that we have no control over what others think about us, or remember about us. But we can imagine. And often times we use this as a way to hold ourselves back and beat ourselves up.
But what if we used this imaginary thinking to create ideas for how we want to show up and create life fulfillment for ourselves?
What I mean is, thinking about what sort of contributions or legacies we want to leave behind. Our actions in this life leave an impact on the world around us, long after we are dead, and that reach far further than our physical bodies ever actually went. Our actions, and the words we use have energies to them.
So, how do we use this to leave behind contributions that will lead to life fulfillment?
It goes back to the first dimension of life fulfillment. Knowing our authentic selves is crucial here. Because, when we know our authentic selves, and what is important to us on a values, and purpose level, we can start to choose actions, and words that contribute to those values, and purposes.
Unfortunately, for most people, there is a disconnect between how they are showing up and speaking, or acting in life, versus what their values, and purpose are. A lot of this has to do with the fact that most people do not know what their authentic values and purpose are. So, their actions and words are chaotically spinning out into the world around them trying to play inauthentic roles, and survive inauthentic stories about life, and what is possible for them in life.
To leave behind a contribution or legacy that leads to life fulfillment, there needs to be intention. There needs to be clarity of values and purpose. A person cannot take intentional steps to create a contribution in this life that fulfills a higher purpose, or aligns with the core values they are designed to value, IF they do not first see and know what that higher purpose, and those values are.
I see so many people taking actions out in the world, and saying things that do not align with anything that they authentically value. They do things that serve A purpose, but not THE purpose they are designed for. They achieve many things, but look back on all of it without fulfillment. They may even feel resentful about it.
Many people feel like they are just wasting their time, and working so hard in life just to survive some “facts” or “rules” about life that they were told about, and believed. They are busy doing a little dance for some imaginary dangling carrot that society told them to dance for, and how to dance for it. But, at the end of the day, they go home, look back on their day and wonder why they did all of that.
This all goes back to a lack of alignment with purpose, and authentic core values. These same people are contributing something to the world. Others will look at their life, and maybe praise them for those contributions. But the person themselves does not feel excited, or grateful for the praise, because they do not know their authentic purpose, or alignment to that contribution. It is just them playing a role they were told they should play, AND should WANT TO play.
What I want to really drive home here, is that we all will leave a contribution behind in life. We can even try not to, but we will. What leads to life fulfillment, is when that contribution is intentional, and aligned. I mean that it is aligned with authentic core values, and purpose for the individual leaving that particular contribution behind.
And it is not about how other people will speak about that contribution, or think about it. It is not how others will feel about it that causes this to contribute to life fulfillment. What makes it fulfilling is that the person leaving the contributions behind with intention, KNOWS how that contribution aligns with values that are authentic for them, and serves a purpose that they authentically know and understand.
Do you want to look back on your life and think about the time you spent with resentment or disdain? I don’t. I don’t think that many people want that. And this is why the opposite contributes to life fulfillment.
We want to look back on our life and how we spent our time and think to ourselves “yes… that was a good use of my time”. We want to smile, and feel proud with how we chose to give our time and attention to worthwhile parts of our life.
So, how do we make sure this happens? You may already have guessed it by now. It has to do with authenticity again. It is almost like life fulfillment and authenticity go hand in hand or something. (maybe that is why I am an authenticity coach…)
So, authenticity in how we spend our times, is what allows us to look back on the time spent and believe that it was worthwhile. Knowing that the things we did that used the time we have in this life, were about what was truly important to us, IS what leads to life fulfillment.
So, again, if we do not know what we truly value in life, and why, then is it even possible to look at the time we spent, and REALLY feel like we spent it in a worthwhile way? I venture to guess, that the answer is “no”. Having this knowing, of what is truly important to us in life, is the compass that allows us to choose the direction in which we move with spending our time, which then allows us to look back on it with a knowing that it was worthwhile.
If you get to the end of a life where you do not know what was important in it, or why, then how will you know if the time was spent in a worthwhile way? What is the measure to which you will assess that? The knowledge of your authentic core values and purpose, is not only the compass that will guide the direction in which you spend your time, it is also the scale on which you will measure the worthwhileness of that time spent. And having a higher measurement of that worthwhileness is a huge part of life fulfillment.
Having positive thoughts, stories, and feelings when viewing one’s life in retrospect is the last dimension of a fulfilling life. And guess what? This goes back to authenticity too.
These dimensions of a fulfilling life really build on each other. Because in order for us to have positive stories, thoughts, and feelings about our life in retrospect, every other dimension before this one occurs first. Looking back on life and feeling time was worthwhile leads to us having these thoughts and feelings about life in retrospect.
To think that time was spent in a worthwhile way we will want to make sure we left behind a meaningful contribution, and legacy to life. To be able to do that we will first need to know ourselves, and what is truly important to us in life, and why, to be able to contribute in a way that we will look back on and KNOW, it was a meaningful and positive impact on life. Instead of just thinking “well, they told me this was important, and I did that… So I guess my contribution was meaningful?”
All of the first three dimensions of life fulfillment lead to us being able to look back on life in retrospect (whether that be now, or at the end of life) and have stories and feelings about it that lead to a feeling of fulfillment. And, this is really the culmination of life fulfillment.
I want to caution you though. It can feel very easy to look back on one’s life and feel very judgmental about the things we did, and contributed. We have been taught to believe many stories about ourselves, and what we should be doing with our lives, or should have done. And believing those stories can derail any feelings of fulfillment, even when we did leave behind and authentic, and meaningful contribution, and spent our time in worthwhile ways.
What I want to encourage you to begin practicing, is looking back on mini-periods of your life where you were very intentional about how you spent your time, in an authentic way. I want you to practice building stories up for you about your life in retrospect that lead to that sense of life fulfillment.
Don’t ask for other’s opinions about these stories. These are your stories for you. And these are important. You can always see where you want to improve, and do more, or differently in the future. What is important is that you learn the practice of being able to separate that desire to learn, grow, and show up differently in the future, from how you look at your stories of the past.
We can look at our stories of the past and feel fulfilled by the stories we tell ourselves, and then still look to our future and think “if I did that, what am I capable of growing into next? What am I able to do differently that brings me even closer to showing up with my fullest potential in life?”.
We are able to do both, but the truth is that often people are taught to do one or the other. Either you feel fulfilled and you stop growing and evolving, or you look back at your life and feel horrible about it, to cause enough pain to force change on yourself. This sort of binary thinking will not serve you to find life fulfillment.
You can feel fulfilled about your contributions in life so far. You can know that you are showing up and contributing in a meaningful and purposeful way, and STILL desire to grow, and change and see what more is possible for you. You do not need an internal beating up of your past self to still continue to grow and evolve.
As I mentioned earlier, for many people, their concept of life fulfillment is one of seeking happiness and achievement. I want to address this here at the end of this article.
We have already talked about the dimensions of a fulfilling life. I believe it has become abundantly clear that authenticity is both the compass to life fulfillment, and the scale by which life fulfillment is measured. So, where does this leave us with happiness and achievement?
When it comes to happiness, we need to remember that happiness is an emotion. It is ONE emotion that we experience as humans. But our FULL emotional range is what we are designed for in the human experience. So, when a person seeks to find happiness, and does so all of the time, they miss out on their true experience of the human life.
Emotions serve as spotlights to allow us to know our truest selves. When a strong emotion comes up, it is more than likely a message from our true selves saying “hey… I want to show you something important about me”. So, resisting those emotions, versus processing them, will not serve us in getting to know ourselves.
Reacting to those emotions will not serve us here either. So, learning to process emotions is important to life fulfillment. But, it is important that we are willing, and ready to process, and listen to ALL of our emotions, not just seek out happiness, and resist any emotion that seems like it is keeping us from happiness.
What is interesting here, is that people who try to forcefully seek happiness all of the time, and avoid other emotions, tend to actually experience happiness less, and with less enjoyment. Happiness becomes an elusive high that we seek, that we can never get enough of to avoid the rest of the human experience of life.
This sort of resistance to the human experience is not going to lead you to life fulfillment. Even when we think about our life in retrospect, some of the most fulfilling times in life that we will remember, are when we processed through an intense emotion, and found the message we were designed to receive and then express on the other side of it. Our full range of emotions are essential to life fulfillment.
Now, when it comes to achievement and life fulfillment, I want to clarify a few things. In a fulfilling life, we will achieve many things. But it is not the achievement itself that makes it fulfilling.
What makes the achievement fulfilling in life, is the purpose behind the achievement. A fulfilling life of achievement is one in which we can point to achievements and know what authentic values and purpose we contributed to in life, by achieving what we did.
Without that authentic set of core values, or purpose visible to us, our achievements feel flimsy, fake, unfulfilling, and shallow. We may look at an achievement and think something like, “really?… That’s it?”. And then maybe feel some regret or resentment for the time we put into it.
This is why achievement alone is not what leads to a fulfilling life. What leads to a fulfilling life is knowing what we want to contribute to in this life, and why, and then achieving goals that align with that. When we do this, we have the recipe for life fulfillment.
So, what is the take away here?
When we talk about life fulfillment, authenticity is the foundation. All of the dimensions of a fulfilling life stem from authenticity. At the end of the day, fulfillment can only stem from a person who is showing up as their truest self and advocating for themselves, their values and purpose, and seeking to constantly grow in their understanding of the richness and beauty of that person. How we will express our understanding of ourselves will grow and evolve as our vision and understanding of ourselves does.
Authenticity is the guide, the compass, and the scale by which we measure life fulfillment. What is so amazing about authenticity, is that it will show up differently for EVERY PERSON. We each have our own secret recipe. The world NEEDS each and every one of us to know our recipe. We are in this life at this time, because we are designed to contribute that authentic recipe to this life.
Do you know your authentic recipe for life fulfillment? Maybe it is time that you put knowing THAT, at the top of your priority list, instead of all of the chaotic actions of an inauthentic you.
You are DESIGNED for more.
Rise & Thrive!
Seth Lusk, Founder, and CEO of Authentic Life Connection: coaching services. He is also the podcast creator and host for the Authentic Life Connection podcast. He is a published author of the book What I really want is… But I’m Just too full of… . This book is available on Amazon for purchase. Seth is a Life coach as well. He works with clients one-to-one as well as in groups to help them create their most authentic and fulfilling life, from the inside out. Seth is also the founder and CEO of Lusk Holistic Health Services (the umbrella company for Authentic Life Connection: coaching services). Under this umbrella company Seth also provides guidance in fitness and nutrition for his clients. This comes from his background and education in exercise science and nutrition. Seth has worked with hundreds of clients to get clear on their authentic goals for their life, fitness, and health, and helped them create unstoppable authentic action to actualize these in their lives. For more about how to get in touch with Seth or hear more about his work, you can find him @ https://www.lifecoachseth.com . There you can access his podcast, book, social media, as well as speak with Seth directly about working with him one-to-one as coach/coachee. To access the “Authentic Life Connection” podcast, follow the link below