If you’ve ever had the thought of living a happier life or yearned to feel more fulfilled in what you do, you are not alone. Those desires exist in all of us naturally. The first issue is that we all see and perceive them differently, which is why it’s impossible to define the one rule to make us all happy and fulfilled. The second issue is that most people lack the self-awareness needed to know where they even stand. So, not only that you lack direction, but you also don’t know where your starting point is. Trying to live a fulfilling life in that kind of fog is frustrating as hell, to put it lightly. There are some steps that you can take, though, to begin clearing up that fog in your life. Once the fog has been lifted, you’ll gain the confidence to take bolder steps forward toward a happier life.
The Elusiveness Of Joy
It’s incredible how we constantly encounter things that give us deep and powerful joy and things that make us profoundly sad, angry, and frustrated throughout our lives. The most annoying part is that you can’t average it out. You can’t say I’m 60% happy and 40% sad; therefore, I am happier than sad.
It doesn’t work that way.
Even if it did, realizing that gap and trying hard to quash the sadness and improve the happiness will only result in more frustration and despair. It’s a paradox, indeed.
Trying to parse your life’s joy versus all the antonyms of joy that you can think of will only make the missing parts of joy more prominent and, thus, proportionally decrease happiness.
That means that joy will always stay elusive because the more you think of its achievement as your life’s goal, the harder it will be to get it.
Then, why the f- are you writing this, I hear you mutter.
The fact that joy is elusive doesn’t mean that you can’t be joyous. The difference is in focus. In this instance, if you focus on the outcome, your mind will play tricks on you. Instead, you must focus entirely on the process and allow that process to work.
For example, you may set yourself a goal to run a marathon, which is a hard enough task. If every day you focus on the gap between how much you can run today and those elusive 26 miles you should be running, you’ll constantly feel behind the curve.
But if instead, you focus on running one extra mile each week, in 26 weeks, you’ll probably be able to run a marathon-you’re focused on the weekly gain. The final goal will arrive eventually, but the issue here is where your mind is focused, and it’s focused on what you do now, not on what you must do later.
It works precisely the same with your overall happiness and fulfillment.
Difference Between Happy, Fulfilled, and Simple
The title of this article includes three words that, on the surface, seem to point toward the same thing: happy, fulfilled, and simple. But are they?
There are several significant differences between being happy and being fulfilled, while simple is in a league of its own.
Clinical psychologist Khosi Jiyane described this difference by pinpointing what each of the two states represents:
“Happiness is the result of [something]. There’s also a sense that it is transient. […][Happiness] is consumerism.”
“Fulfillment is a more pervasive and enduring quality of being and well-being. There’s a sense of silence to fulfillment. […] Fulfillment is more of an internal sense of self.”
Another great way to exemplify the difference comes from Simon Sinek, who wrote, and I paraphrase, “If you want to feel happy, do something for yourself. If you want to feel fulfilled, do something for someone else.”
Happiness is a shot of heroin with powerful effects that last a few hours, and then you need another shot and then another and another. Fulfillment is saving a bird that fell out of its nest, and never forget that feeling for the rest of your life.
The thing is, we all need boosts of happiness now and then, however, hopefully, not from heroin. But when you live that kind of hedonistic life exclusively, fulfillment will be elusive. Instead, if you focus on fulfillment, happiness will spawn from it at unexpected moments.
Simplicity, on the other hand, is the opposite of complexity. The more complex life you lead, the harder it will become to find that fulfillment due to the avalanche of stuff around you. Therefore, a simpler life becomes a conduit or a catalyst for your fulfillment and happiness.
Therefore, although the concepts are vastly different, they work together, and learning how to meld them and fold them into your life is what will ultimately give you the life you so desire.
Reasons We Keep Ourselves Unhappy and Unfulfilled
Before you know what you do, it’s critical to know what not to do. That’s because it’s almost impossible to start a new, good habit while the old, bad habit still lingers on. For an on-the-nose example, you better quit smoking first if you want to run a marathon.
The same goes for your entire life. There are things that we all do daily that stand in the way of our happiness and fulfillment in life, and four of them are paramount.
At one end of the spectrum, life is simple: find shelter, eat, sleep, and you’ll be fine. After all, that’s what all animals do, and we’re no different. But life today is anything but that. In addition to all the inherent complexity of human life, we have something else remarkable: our minds.
With our minds, we take that complexity and multiply it tenfold. We create expectations based on what we see, hear, imagine, or believe.
The higher the complexity of life in our minds, the higher the likelihood to focus on what you don’t have, what you can’t do, and what is lacking.
The more you cut out the complexity of life and focus on its simplicity, the more likely you will attract happiness and fulfillment.
Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti once said, “here’s my secret. I don’t mind what happens.” That’s profound on many different levels.
Life happens whether you like it or not. When you start minding what happens, especially those things outside of your control, you give away your energy.
That’s energy that you can use to foster your happiness and fulfillment in life, but instead, you use it to attract bitterness toward reality.
Once you start to accept that the things outside of your control are not yours to control, you no longer fear the reality. When you do that, you can find those places inside the reality where you can be happy and fulfilled.
Living Without intention
If you don’t intend to go anywhere, you can’t ask yourself why you’re not getting anywhere. Happiness and joy will be that much more elusive when there’s nothing to aspire to, nothing to go toward. Why? Because the basis of joy and happiness lies in the journey, and although you need not focus on the end of that journey, a journey still requires a destination.
Carpe diem is a great concept that often gives you a sense of freedom and brings momentary glimpses of happiness and even joy. However, carpe diem cannot be the overarching concept for your entire life because it implies allowing your life’s happiness to spawn from luck, which is never a good plan.
When you live a life without intention and march forward into a foggy horizon with no idea what could and might be behind it, you severely undercut your chances to experience happiness and joy in life.
How can you be happy or fulfilled if you don’t know if you are happy or fulfilled? How can you make any changes in your life if you don’t know what your triggers are?
Self-awareness is a crucial piece of happiness. Being in touch with your emotions, especially uncomfortable ones, is essential to understand how they affect your behavior. Without that internal radar, you won’t be able to sense how life in general and the people around you, in particular, affect your happiness and fulfillment.
That’s why working on your self-awareness is a critical prerequisite to tackling the happiness in your life. Becoming more aware of who you are and how the environment affects you will, in turn, allow you to create a more intentional life with no fear of reality and no need to complicate life beyond the basics.
12 Practices to Life a More Fulfilling Life
Next, let’s look at several practices and rituals that you have to introduce or expand in your life to improve the chances of living a simpler, happier, and more fulfilled life. These are not in any particular order, nor must you go through all of them in a specific way.
Instead, they can all be tackled one at a time. None of these are easy, although they sound easy, and they all require attention and focus from you. Most importantly, they’ll need you to understand how they can affect your quality of life and why they work.
That means that you need to have a high self-awareness to understand where you stand concerning all of them, hence point 4) above.
Clarity on values and priorities
Your values define what is essential in your life; they represent the barometer for right and wrong. Therefore, it is paramount to understand your values and work on clarifying a value system conducive to happiness and fulfillment.
That means deciding on the values you want to move towards and rejecting the values you want to move away from. It also means setting the priority of your values in the proper order and then living your life according to that hierarchy. When you do so, you live an intentional and authentic life which in time will breed happiness and joy.
Declutter your life
This action goes right toward attacking that complexity of life we all allow around us. Decluttering doesn’t mean just your physical space but your mind and soul, too. Cleansing your life of the unimportant will reveal the essential and allow you to focus on what’s important.
When you give your whole focus space to what is critical, you increase your chances of being happy and fulfilled. To do so, first clear out the things that clutter your way—declutter your life.
Watch where you say yes
Few things in our lives frustrate us more than when we do things we don’t want to do, which goes directly against happiness and joy. To be happy, you must first do something that you love, and if you do things that you hate, the result is obvious.
That is why it’s critical to learn how to say no and be mindful about where you say yes in your life because that is where you will wind up putting your energy.
There are always things in life to be grateful for, but we often take those things for granted as though it’s the typical way life should go. Then, when bad things happen, we focus on those and become bitter and angry. When you focus on what you lack, you forget to enjoy the little moments that life gives you.
But if you put deliberate efforts into cultivating gratitude, you open up a well of positiveness in your life and shine a light on those things that make you happy rather than concentrate on those that make you less happy.
Crush negative mindsets
No matter where you are in your life, there will come a time when your mind will spring into negative thinking. It could be an event, a person, a specific situation, or an emotion such as fear. When that happens, our brains tend to fall into negative thinking.
There is no room for happiness or joy when there’s negative thinking. Negative thinking robs you of them, so you need to do the best that you can to push those negative thoughts away, not in the way of suppressing them or pretending like they don’t exist, but in the form of not allowing them to alter your behavior and outlook on life.
The more your counter those negative mindsets with positive ones, the more your invite happiness into your life.
Create more than you consume
Consumption leads to addiction, while creation leads to passion.
When you create, you use your skills, strengths, and imagination to make something new. It could be a work of art, such as painting, drawing, writing, or something else, like cooking or gardening.
The more you disassociate yourself from consumerism which creates a slew of bad habits and has the same effect of instant gratification followed by withdrawal, the better you’ll be equipped to invite happiness and fulfillment into your life.
Join an art class or a dance studio. Use your creativity to do something rather than consume what’s already there. There are many ways to improve your creative thinking and apply it to create.
Embrace your imperfections
If you are constantly worried about how you appear to others and what others think about you, you’ll have few chances to experience happiness and joy truly. Instead, you’ll constantly feel anxious and worried about everything and everyone around you.
When you practice living an authentic life and genuinely learn how to be yourself in any situation, you reject those negative feelings and thoughts and accept yourself for who you are with your good and bad traits.
Our imperfections make us unique; they give us dimensions and make us human. Don’t be afraid to be imperfect.
Fulfillment in life increases when you improve your contribution. Just as you have a vision about yourself, you also have a mission about everybody else. That doesn’t mean that you must serve the entire world—it means that you must help your world however you can.
Generosity creates deep connections and increases your joy and fulfillment in ways that are difficult to describe.
Try your best to make someone’s day once in a while, but don’t limit your generosity to just material things. Your words and empathy can add to your generosity. Kindness and care do, too.
Be kind and generous to people, and you’ll feel happier.
Do what you love
Too many of us find ourselves in a line of work that we either rushed into or were forced into by circumstances. Perhaps it was the most logical thing to do at the time, or maybe we wanted to satisfy our parents.
But what about what you truly love? Passion in life cannot be discovered; instead, it must be created. Passion spawns and evolves when you do what you love for a long time and put genuine energy behind it.
The more you do what you love, the happier you’ll be, and you’ll feel more fulfilled.
Take care of yourself
You have to be generous to others, but that doesn’t mean you can forget being generous with yourself. Many people become martyrs in their own life, sacrificing every ounce of time and energy on others. Although that is a great attitude and a fantastic way to give back, it lends itself to burnout. The more you burn out, the less you’ll be able to contribute in the right way.
Instead, take care of yourself first. Rejuvenate, rest, recover, and then hit the road again. Do it often and remind yourself that you are important and you, too, need care.
Once you step into adulthood, it’s very tempting to jump into the workforce and into making a family. Often, when you do that, you tend to forget about learning, as that part of your life seems to be left behind. The truth is you can never stop learning.
Knowledge and wisdom are critical in our day-to-day life. The more we learn, the better equipped we are to take challenges in life, and with challenges comes growth and development.
Happiness comes rushing in when you learn because as your knowledge expands, so does your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-image. The easiest way to accomplish this is to spend some time creating your own lifelong learning plan and start introducing it into your daily routines.
Last but not least, always keep in mind that we all have certain boundaries that define our comfort zone. Our bodies and minds love to hang out in those comfort zones because it’s safe and secure. But, there’s no growth. In time, those boundaries shrink, and soon enough, we become afraid even to test them.
Instead, challenge those limits every day. That doesn’t mean leaping headfirst without rhyme or reason, but test the limits little by little and do it often.
That consistency will help you develop your self-discipline and perseverance, and, in time, you won’t even see those boundaries anymore. Then, you’ll feel the freedom and happiness that you’ve so desired.
Live Happy Every Day
Happiness and joy are not things you can find; they are ways of life. You always have a choice as to how you approach life, which will define how you feel happy and how joy manifests for you.
Most importantly, don’t wait for happiness from outside of you. You may get it once in a while, but it’s not a sustainable system.
Instead, create happiness, joy, and fulfillment from within through your mindsets, actions, and behaviors.
When you live in that fashion, happiness is no longer elusive. It’s there.
Other Resources on Living a More Fulfilling Life
- 5 Ways To Live A Simple Life
- 20 Secrets to Living a Happier Life
- 18 Basic Rules for Leading a Fulfilling Life
- 10 Choices That Lead to a Happy, Fulfilling Life
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- What are some practices that you have in your life to increase your life fulfillment?
- Do you sometimes feel like you are chasing happiness instead of living your life?
- When you work on your annual vision statement, how do you treat happiess – as a means or an end goal?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!