One Tip for Creating More Fulfillment in Your Work and Life (Editor’s Blog)
There’s a quote that circulates on social media that says, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” (It doesn’t say who the author is).
Having worked on and refined that process myself over many years, I could share volumes about how true that is.
But it made me realize, most people aren’t aware of such a simple method to creating more happiness in their lives and work. That is—“unbecoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”
(Ugh, I love that).
Instead many are living what I call a ‘default’ life. We often live under values, labels and beliefs that family or society hoisted upon us. These values and beliefs guide our every thought, action and result in life. The problem is, those values and beliefs aren’t really ours. Rather they’re a compilation of ideas that came from parents, relatives, teachers, media and friends. As kids, we take them in as true—not knowing any better—and internalize them, true or not, empowering or not, self-limiting or not.
As adults those self-concepts still haunt our unconscious thinking, which experts say drives about 95% of our actions and reactions. To every new day, we are bringing old beliefs that power our results. And that’s how we end up living a default life, rather than one that feels good to us, one that matches what’s in our heart and soul. (Which by the way, isn’t healthy; it can cause physical and emotional distress).
It’s like walking around wearing our childhood coat that no longer fits. As adults, we need to throw off the too-small and confining coat and adopt one filled with possibilities and empowered actions.
So let me share the best way I found to get this process rolling: Observe yourself in action. Try to be an impartial spectator (a.k.a. self-aware, which is so important for success and happiness. And in fact, women are better at it than men, which is why they often make better leaders).
Try this for a week. Really pay attention to what you love doing and what you don’t, the places you love to be and the places you don’t, the people you love to be around and the people you don’t, and what feels like the true you and what doesn’t. And then do more of what you love and less of what you don’t (sounds obvious, I know, but we’re often too busy to notice and make that intentional shift). Also observe what’s missing that would make your life extraordinary, and fit it in there somewhere, even in small steps. You might find that the activities you love most are things you’ve loved since you were a kid, or are at least related to them. It’s the real you shining through.
As you start noticing what drives you, and doing more of it, you’ll naturally begin to feel more fulfilled.
As an example, I recall the day I realized something I should have realized a long time ago. Someone asked me to go to the mall. I thought, ‘you know what? I don’t like malls and I don’t like being inside. I don’t even love sitting in restaurants.’ Instead, I’d prefer to be outdoors and active. It sounds so insignificant, but that realization had a major impact on my life, and led to many other realizations. Now, I have a mental list of them, and I can tell you, aligning your life with those things really does increase your happiness level. Studies show that being happy is really about small moments that add up, it’s not one giant happy-fest, so even small steps make a difference. (Granted, with partners and families, there are other people’s needs and wants to consider, but if you feel a sense of well-being, it increases your abilty to be, do and give more to others).
Something else I noticed when I began doing this is that my life’s work came into focus. A few years ago, I was working on a writing project when I “observed” I was hating it. Not the project itself, but writing. I’ve been a professional journalist for more than two decades and always loved it. But one day while writing, I realized something coming from a deeper place was making me feel really frustrated. I didn’t want to be sitting over a keyboard for most of my day. Instead, I wanted to be out there teaching and sharing what I knew. That was a huge aha for me, and changed the trajectory of my career. While I’ll always be a writer, and I’m grateful for what it brought me, it was time to evolve. Now I enjoy writing more because I’m doing it as part of my life’s work, not as my entire life’s work.
If you pay attention to when you’re happiest in your work and personal life, when time is just breezing by, those are the activities that make your heart and soul sing. Those are the ones you should try to do more of, so you can experience the person you’re meant to be.
Next post, coming soon: How To Invest According to Your Values