We experience so much pressure to feel content and full with our lives and the choices we’ve made. At different times, there have been different pressures to feel fulfilled with different things. But no matter what the message is, it typically comes down to this: find one thing that makes you happy. Feel fulfilled with this. Or filled up with that. But in these prescriptions lies a common mandate: find fulfillment in one thing. One single thing. Focus on that, get it right, and find your golden ticket.
Different societies at different time periods have pushed varying prescriptions. In the place I currently sit, I hear loudly and clearly that such contentment should come from having a career on point – one that I’m passionate about, one that serves my greater purpose, one that will be the guiding light of which the rest of my life will get sorted.
While I have the great fortune of having a career I love, that deeply fulfills me… it’s a complete privilege. I think it’s bullshit to force fulfillment within these parameters, however. Because even shiny goals and cool work isn’t enough to fulfill a human. And any message otherwise is just a lie.
That’s the message I hear. But you may hear one of your own: big money, marriage, a child, a house, a perfect body, a lifestyle, an accomplishment.
Your fulfillment, my fulfillment, our collective fulfillment needs way more than one thing: it needs human connections important to us like close friends and family, it needs community we feel a part of, it needs a compassionate relationship to yourself, it needs a path of serving, it needs a robust practice of gratitude. And it needs all of those things. Not just one of those things.
Sadly, we only realize that fulfillment doesn’t come from one single thing when we get that thing and find emptiness where we were told we’d find fulfillment. So pay attention to where you’ve convinced yourself your life will be fulfilled when. And refuse to see any one thing as the magic pill. Because it won’t be. It will, however, come from keeping close all the things most important to you, and finding your joy in a diversified portfolio of love, contribution, and community.