What are the secrets of true fulfillment for American women in the 21st century? By fulfillment, I mean contentment -- being at peace with your life choices and how you have expressed yourself in the world. In this age of fascination with celebrities and the acquisition of great wealth, too many women tell me that they feel unfulfilled or like a failure if they are not famous or multi-millionaires, even though their lives are gems -- filled with creativity, love, and purpose. According to Webster, to fulfill oneself is to realize completely one's ambitions, potentialities, etc. Fulfillment has a quality of completion or being finished about it. Yet, women who are truly fulfilled keep growing and tackling new challenges, and often complain of not having enough time to "finish" or even start all their dreams. True fulfillment is learning to balance the paradox of feeling content and complete today, while simultaneously aspiring for advancement in our personal, professional, and spiritual realms.
Too many women, though, are so focused on what they have not yet accomplished or become, that they suffer and devalue their present selves. To feel fulfilled is a choice. Women who sparkle with a sense of fulfillment adhere to another set of guiding principles than do women who feel like victims, or martyrs, or disempowered. Despite our gains in the "outer world," women still struggle internally with a lack of self-confidence, which research has shone to be the key component of happiness. One of my missions as a writer and a coach is to help women feel complete and rejoice in what they have created in their lives. I guide women to embrace new challenges, scale higher heights, and raise the bar of excellence, possibility, and prosperity. But that all begins with their ability to appreciate where they are today in their life journey. Before we can move on, we must embrace the truth of where we are in our individual process now.
Each of us has a unique destiny and a particular path to fulfillment to discover. Women who feel loving toward themselves can more comfortably take the risks required to become their true and authentic self. It's time to blow up the confining patriarchal and outmoded definitions of "success for women" and evolve into a society of women that celebrates freedom, balanced living, strong values that reflect our feminine power, and validation for our spirit. As women, we are surrounded by pressure, criticism, judgments, and condemnation for our choices. No wonder we feel the self-loathing that is projected upon us by a culture that is driven by advertising, corporate profits, workaholism, and old stereotypes of beauty and feminine roles. We need a salve for the disease of self-loathing and tools for self-acceptance and action.
One of the secrets to contentment is to be able to enjoy the journey by celebrating the milestones along the trip. In my book The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor, I talk about how creativity is a dance between yourself and a medium, like oil paint, or a calling, or a social cause. The ability to feel fulfilled and content with our lives is vital to the health of our mind, body, and spirit. Negative stress, such as feeling dissatisfied with our life choices, undermines our sense of well-being and our conviction to keep moving forward.
A second secret is to stop comparing ourselves to others, which is dangerous game. Yet women are notorious for focusing on their "lacks." Highly fulfilled women have mastered immunity to all the hype and filter out such toxic mind-control. I want women to stop inflicting pain upon themselves for who they are not. I want women to remember to cherish and live their own life-not someone else's. Women must master the trick of letting go of other people's expectations for them. Women need to feel free to express themselves, not strive to look like the woman on the cover of Cosmo or feel devastated that they missed the Internet boom and their opportunity to purchase stock worth millions.
A third secret is to know what you truly want. Start by answering the following questions:
1) What is your definition of fulfillment? Do you feel fulfilled now?
2) What are your guiding principles or spiritual beliefs that help you to feel fulfilled and in charge of your life?
3) What are you most grateful for in your life?
4) What life lessons have been most powerful for you?
5) How do you deal with adversity or regrets?
6) How do you maintain your contentment as you strive for more?
Let your answers be a starting place for today and your future. You deserve to feel complete and triumphant about your life right now. Fulfillment begins with making peace with reality. To feel fulfilled, we must choose who we are as raw material. Notice how you are blessed in spite of your limits. If you focus on your gifts, you move forward. Fulfilled women feel much more in charge of their lives as they chose their own pathway. They write down goals and are continually redesigning their lives to reflect their creativity and ambitions. They know what is in their heart and feel motivated by their passions, whether it's for parenting, partnering, or painting. Instead of just complaining or talking about doing "it," they actually do "it." They know if they chicken out on life, their life, they will feel cheated and unhappy. If they don't know for sure what's best for them, they experiment. Experimentation is how we get to the truth. It gives us practice and clarity. By celebrating fulfillment in a myriad of moments each day, we live with gratitude and reverence. That is the true experience of fulfillment.
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