Dear Kai: Why do I never feel fulfilled with my life?

The short answer to your question is: consider reframing your expectations.

Dear Kai
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And the longer answer explains how to do it to feel fulfilled…

I get this question a lot. People feel they’re capable of more but aren’t doing enough to maximize their potential. So let me ask you, ‘maximize your potential for what?’

The Expectancy Theory of Motivation says the most effective way for staying motivated to get what we want is to focus on the end goal. It requires believing that the goal is valuable enough to pursue; that you know how to achieve it; and that you have the confidence to execute.

Let’s look deeper into that first step – determining the value of your goals.

If you’re equating success with worthiness this will create blocks in your life.

3 insights into what a fulfilled life looks like

Early in life, most of us accept other people’s ideas of success as our own. Maybe a specific person, such as one of our parents, or the culture we grew up in. So our initial reasons for choosing a goal, and the confidence in our abilities to reach it, aren’t sufficient to keep us motivated (let alone feel fulfilled).

For example, success is:

A nice house that looks perfect all the time 🏡

A high-profile job with lots of recognition 💼

An accommodating romantic relationship where you never fight  💑

Maybe you’re thinking, ‘But I’ve weighed out my pros and cons, and I’ve figured out what’s right for me. I just can’t seem to make it happen.’

I feel your frustration, Kaizen.

First of all, if you’re clear on what you truly want to achieve in life – congratulations! That’s more than most people. Have you also laid out an actionable plan to make progress?

Second, look again and see if you still equate others’ definitions of success with feeling worthy of love and belonging. Everyone does this. But not everyone is conscious of the extent to which it affects them. If you’re equating success with worthiness this will create blocks in your life. We could all use a daily reminder that we don’t need to achieve anything to feel worthy of love.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need. 👅

The Rolling Stones

Third, to avoid unnecessary suffering, know that when you choose to prioritize one goal, others must get relegated. That is the definition of prioritization.  We give up some of one thing to get more of another.  Take comfort in giving attention to the values you deem highest.

Maybe you let your house slip into disarray a couple times a week because you value the creative mess of family life more than a living room that looks like a photo shoot.

Maybe the right job for you involves recognition from a select few, most notably yourself.

And maybe you and your partner get into arguments, but you also learn and grow together because of it, and that’s worth more than always getting along.

Sometimes all you need to do in order to feel fulfilled is reframe your expectations.

Look back at how much you’ve grown as a person, comparing yourself only to who you’ve been.

Give a resonant thanks for everything you already have and everything that has gotten you this far. It’s all material to help you move forward.

Walk confidently into the unknown future, grounded in the faith that life unfolds at the exact right pace.

More from our blog

If you’re equating success with worthiness this will create blocks in your life.

References

  • Death by Information Overload

    Harvard Business Review

  • 10 Steps to Conquering Information Overload

    Forbes

  • Cognitive Biases Cheat Sheet

    Medium

  • Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue?

    New York Times

  • Getting Things Done

    David Allen

  • Eat That Frog

    Brian Tracy

  • Personal Kanban

    Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry

Suggested
reading

  • Death by Information Overload

    Harvard Business Review

  • 10 Steps to Conquering Information Overload

    Forbes

  • Cognitive Biases Cheat Sheet

    Medium

  • Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue?

    New York Times

  • Getting Things Done

    David Allen

  • Eat That Frog

    Brian Tracy

  • Personal Kanban

    Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry

Mindful living articles

  • Death by Information Overload

    Harvard Business Review

  • 10 Steps to Conquering Information Overload

    Forbes

  • Cognitive Biases Cheat Sheet

    Medium

  • Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue?

    New York Times

  • Getting Things Done

    David Allen

  • Eat That Frog

    Brian Tracy

  • Personal Kanban

    Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry

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