Fulfilling your purpose might not be what you think it is

a happy man
Fulfilment doesn’t come from what you have, it comes from what you do.

We often feel like we should be trying to fulfil our purpose, but what does that even mean.

How I found fulfilment in life

I’ve always wanted to do something important and meaningful with my life, but I’ve always found it challenging to get fulfillment from my day job.

Early last year, I thought hard about what I wanted out of life and made a plan; from there, I realized that I needed to write as much as possible. So I researched and came up with a long list of articles that I could write.

Once I knew what I needed to do and worked through the list, I made lots of progress and always had something to do with my free time. While I was busier than usual over the last year, I made tremendous progress and have since written well over 150k words.

Having a clear plan and a list of tasks helped me feel fulfillment.

Some people might not like to keep busy, but being active means you aren’t wasting your time. Even more important, if you are working towards something that you value and see as necessary, the work feels good and gives a sense of satisfaction.

Having a plan based on what I judged as necessary gave me a massive boost in motivation. Sticking with the project over the year and seeing my progress has been incredibly fulfilling.

On top of this, when I’m not working towards my goals, something feels off. But those feelings help motivate me to keep working on what is essential.

Fulfilling your purpose, what it isn’t

Today, our culture is focused on material success; we are told to want things and have lots of money to live the good life. 

When we focus on money or success, we get pulled towards things that might not matter but do seem to have rewards.

I’m not here to blast lawyers, but many people could be pulled towards that career because it looks good and pays well, but that doesn’t mean it makes people happy.

Some lawyers make a positive difference in the world, whereas others need to do less good things to pay the bills.

Focusing too much on what other people think or how much you’ll make can pull you away from fulfilment.

On the other hand, some of us are so busy with life that we don’t have the time to think about the things that matter to us; instead, we rush. While keeping busy has its benefits, misdirected energy can feel bad in the long run.

Fulfilling your purpose isn’t about how much money you make or what other people think of what you are doing. Instead, it’s about doing what you are meant to do.

Fulfilling your purpose, what it might look like

I’ve always had a sense of what I wanted to do with my life; I wanted independence, and I enjoyed writing. But while this has always been obvious, understanding how to make it a reality has constantly alluded to me.

Often when it comes to fulfilling our purpose or doing what matters to us, it isn’t easy to sort out or figure what it is that makes the most sense for us.

It is easy to pick an occupation off of a list, get training and start working at that job.

It is challenging to listen to your heart and pursue what feels right.

Finding fulfillment comes down to doing what we regard as meaningful, but it also depends on wisely using your skills and time.

We have talked about ikigai, which is the idea that we must mix what we love, are good at, can be paid for and what the world needs. Focusing on that will help us find fulfilment in our lives.

How do you know you’re fulfilling your purpose?

The best indicator that you are fulfilling your purpose is that you feel it; it feels good when you do what matters. 

You will know that you are doing the right thing and working towards the right goals when that is what you are doing.

If you have ever heard of flow, it is a state of mind that feels like you are emersed in what you are doing. Then you might have a sense of what it feels like to be fulfilling your purpose. 

This isn’t to say you will ways being feeling that way, but it is a good indicator that you are headed in the right direction.

Fulfillment feels right, and you know you are doing it when living in line with your nature.

Another thing to remember is that if your past struggles seem to “make sense” in what you are doing right now, you might be onto something bigger than you initially realized.

Often we have a sense of what we are seeking, but we don’t know if it is right until we are living in line with it. But again, that often comes from dealing and learning from past struggles.

How do we find fulfillment?

To find fulfilment, you need to focus your energies on what matters and what feels right to you. To do that, you need first to take some time to think about what you want out of your life and what you enjoy doing.

It is easier to find fulfilment when we see ourselves evolving and getting better at what we are trying to accomplish. If you aren’t looking back at your life and seeing how you’ve improved, you aren’t likely moving forward.

The sense that we are helping others is a good indication that we are doing something important, and from that, we might get some indication of what can fulfill us.

Living in line with your nature is the surest way to find fulfilment.

It is hard at times to know what the right thing to do is, but if you’ve taken the time to sort out your goals and are putting in an effort towards those ends, you are likely headed in the right direction.

Often we force ourselves to do the opposite of what we want; this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t ever do things we don’t want to do. But if we find ourselves struggling more than not, we might need to reevaluate what we are giving our time to.

What does it mean when we aren’t finding fulfilment in what we do?

While your job might pay well and give you respect from family and friends, nothing else matters if you aren’t getting fulfilment out of what you are doing.

It is easy to get caught up in doing what we are supposed to do, but that often comes at the expense of doing what we want to do or what is important to us.

That said, life is full of things that need to be done, so we can’t avoid all the pain of living within society. If we always give some of our time to what matters, we will always have a glimmer of hope.

If you aren’t finding fulfilment in your life, you have to ask yourself why?

It is easy to feel emotions and know that things aren’t right, but you will never do something about it if you don’t take those feelings seriously.

If your life or what you are doing with it doesn’t feel right, ask yourself why and try to be honest.

At the same time, don’t blame others or say you have no control, cause only you can decide what is suitable for you and what you are supposed to do with your life.

Ultimately, you are responsible for what you get out of your life.

What does it mean to find fulfillment at work?

It is hard to find fulfilling work; most people take the job they can get and keep doing it because they need to continue living.

This isn’t to say that you should accept an unfulfilling life; instead, it means that you sometimes need to look outside of work for the meaning you seek.

I’ve had lots of jobs over the years, some were much worse than others, but at this point, I can say that a good work-life balance makes a huge difference. If you work 50+ hours a week, it will be hard to find time for anything other than work.

It is hard to find a fulfilling job, so you need to find fulfilment outside of work.

Your job isn’t all that there is to you; it might instead be what you do so that you can keep living. If that is the case, you need to work or be willing to do what is important to you outside of work hours.

I’m not saying that you can’t find a meaningful job, as it is certainly possible to find a job that you will enjoy aspects of and find the purpose you seek in your life.

But thinking a job will solve all your problems regarding purpose and meaning will only lead to disappointment.

What’s the difference between fulfillment and happiness?

When someone pays you a compliment, you might feel happy, but if that compliment comes from something you have been working hard at, you might feel fulfilment.

Happiness is often something that happens at the moment; for this reason; it can also be short-lived. 

Fulfilment comes from sustained effort towards a meaningful and important target.

While you don’t necessarily need to do anything to find happiness, at least temporarily, fulfilment tends to come from effort and continued focus on goals.

Fulfilment comes from effort, whereas happiness can happen randomly.

We can’t always get what we want or be in the best situation, but we can work towards what matters to us, even if we aren’t being rewarded right away.

There is nothing wrong with being happy; being happy is great, the only difference might be the source and the timeline, but that isn’t a problem unless you let it be one.

It’s ok if you haven’t found fulfillment yet

Don’t worry if you haven’t yet found fulfilment; I’m almost 40 years old, and the last year has been one of the most fulfilling. That said, before my 30’s I wouldn’t have felt the same way.

The biggest obstacle to finding fulfillment is being honest with ourselves, but that isn’t always easy when we are young, as we are often swayed by our peers and what we are supposed to do.

Being honest often takes maturity, which takes a different amount of time for all of us. I’ve always been a bit behind where I was supposed to be, but it still got to where I was going, even if I was a little late.

Like anything worth having, fulfillment takes time.

If you haven’t found fulfilment yet, don’t worry; as long as you’ve committed to self-improvement and are doing what you can to make your life better, you will find it in time.

We can’t always get what we want when we want it, but if we are honest with ourselves and we take our goals seriously, in time, we will have a much better chance of getting what we want.

Fulfillment is what you make it

The reality is that it is up to us to find purpose, meaning, and fulfilment in our own lives.

No one can tell us what we should do; only we can decide, and only we know what we truly want. 

Don’t let people discourage you from your dreams, but also don’t ignore the advice of others, but always remember that it is up to you.

Anything worth having takes time, but it also takes honesty and commitment. You can grab a bar of chocolate and eat it right away, but building something you are proud of always takes time and effort.

While I can’t tell you precisely what you need to do, I’m confident that you can figure it out if you are willing to put in the effort, so don’t let disappointment get in your way and be willing to do what you are meant to do.

What are you doing to live a more fulfilling life? Do you agree with this article’s advice, or do you think there is a better take that deserves attention?

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Robert Carr

Over the years, I've learnt to see things in a different light. This website is my place to share those insights and give my unique perspective on living a meaningful life.

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