I think you’ll agree that we’re all seeking a fulfilling life. Those late nights searching for your life’s purpose? We’ve all been there. We want to wake up happy and spend our days feeling satisfied, yet that’s rarely the case. It’s hard to feel fulfilled sometimes.
The funny thing is that when something feels off in life, our reaction is often to add more to our plates. We take on more because it means more excitement and less boredom, right?
After burning out in 2019, I learned that this isn’t always the case. I realized that I cannot keep taking on more simply because I feel unfulfilled. Truthfully, there’s fulfillment to be found in doing fewer things. In this post, I’m sharing why you don’t need to fill your life to the brim with activities and plans to make it fulfilling.
Why a full life doesn’t equal fulfillment
When you think of a “full life”, you might immediately think of travel, parties, and experiencing new things (many of the things we can’t do in the state of the world right now). Somehow that’s become the vision of what it means to live a fulfilling life.
But life doesn’t have to be brimming with activities to be satisfying. You don’t have to fill every moment of the day with something to do because you think it will make you more content. I say that, yet I’ve adopted the opposite mindset for most of my life.
In college, I juggled my coursework, a student job, sorority, editing the sociology magazine, being a note-taker, mentoring students, and maintaining friendships and a relationship. Looking back on it, I’m not sure how on earth I managed to do that.
Then again in 2019, I thought working three jobs would make my life more rewarding. All it did was stress me out (and this is coming from someone with decent time management skills).
That year taught me that I cannot keep overscheduling myself. I realized that I needed to lower my self-expectations and be okay with doing a few things instead of every.single.thing.
I think I took on so much because I didn’t want people to think I was lazy. Or maybe it was because I didn’t want to think of myself as lazy. All it really did was make me feel like I was continually chasing my tail.
Forcing life to be “full” can lead to less fulfillment. In fact, a busy life can prevent you from being present most of the time. If you don’t have a chance to slow down and pause sometimes, it’s hard to appreciate the moment you’re in.
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If you don’t have a chance to slow down and pause sometimes, it’s hard to appreciate the moment you’re in.
What fulfillment really looks like
I’m not saying that life should be empty, but it doesn’t need to be go-go-go to be fulfilling. A fulfilling life can be quiet and unassuming.
As I write this post now, I’m in the moment; I’m sitting at my desk, listening to music, and letting my thoughts unfold. I could think of so many other things I need or want to do, but I’m enjoying this as it is. This moment is nothing special, but it’s so very special at the same time.
It might not sound exciting, but maybe that’s why we get hung up on the concept of fulfillment. We assume fulfilling means exciting, but sometimes it’s simple, calm, and understated.
We also get stuck when we think we need to feel fulfilled every second of the day. If you don’t feel fulfilled all the time, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.
Fulfillment is a balancing act between moments of joy and moments of stillness. One of the hardest things is learning to be okay with this duality of life.
Fulfillment is a balancing act between moments of joy and moments of stillness.
You don’t have to rush to add new things to your life when you feel unfulfilled. Perhaps you need to reduce or remove instead. After all, it’s better to do a few things extraordinarily well than many things in a mediocre fashion.
Often we can find more fulfillment simply by paying attention. Notice every now and again when you feel a sense of calm. When you’re going for a walk, notice how you put one foot in front of the other without thinking about it. Sometimes that in itself is enough to amaze me and bring me a sense of contentment.
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What does a fulfilling life mean to you?
I hope this post has given you something to think about when it comes to making your own life fulfilling. Remember that what’s fulfilling to others may not be fulfilling to you. Listen to what you want, and try not to get distracted by what everyone else is doing.
If this post resonated with you, I’d love if you shared it with someone who might enjoy it!