The Secrets of Fulfilled People
Are there real tricks to becoming fulfilled in life? You bet. My research and that of others suggests that there are key street-smart actions that those who are most fulfilled use every day in their professional and personal lives. I interviewed over 100 successful people—some who were fulfilled and others who were not—to understand why success does not always bring about fulfillment. There was amazing convergence around several things that fulfilled people do at work and home. Here are the top five:
- Have strong values—and stick with them. Does your work environment, family and friends allow you to behave consistent with your values? Having to behave contrary with your values can be debilitating.
- Practice resilience. One part of resilience, the ability to face adversity and bounce back, is having grit, a firmness of character, or as psychologist Angela Duckworth describes it based on her studies, the “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” It was a rare person who could pursue their long-term goals without setbacks in their lives—divorces, failed promotions, cancer, family members coming off the rails. Many people who I knew to be successful in their professional lives had many hidden stories of failures and bounce backs. They used a variety of approaches to get around those adversities that you can borrow in your own life, such as building a great support network of friends, or family that can support you as you plough through challenges. Those who had developed mentors found them particularly helpful. Some dug deep into their long-term vision or spirituality to help them overcome setbacks. We all have setbacks, it’s how you get up that makes the difference.
- Take risks. A really interesting finding in my research is the quantity of people who either took risks and vouched that those risks stretched them and enabled them to reach new heights, or those who regretted not taking more risks. It appears that wisdom brings with it perspective. What appeared to be huge risks to many when they were young, now seems insignificant in hindsight. Although hindsight is often 20-20, it would be too easy to dismiss this advice simply as sages looking through the rear view mirror. Instead, many felt so strongly about this that they have gone overboard in encouraging their children to take more risks. This is one of the most difficult lessons in the art of fulfillment, but you can help yourself by have a longer term vision, with many intermediate lighthouse goals along the way—stepping stones—that allow you to see the big picture. Imminent risks are often much less threatening when viewing the big picture. Another key is talking to those who have faced those risks before, often providing sage advice that allows one to reduce the fear and anxiety that comes with perceived risk.