THE BLOG

7 Practices of People Who Experience a Fulfilled Life

05/30/2013 02:39 pm ET | Updated Jul 30, 2013

A fulfilled life has a combination of meaning, love, security, productivity and happiness; it is not only a good life but a pleasant and a meaningful one. Based on my experience both as a psychology practitioner and a researcher, people who have their basic needs like food and shelter met and report having a fulfilled life seem to have these general characteristics in common:

1. Having a variety of healthy hobbies/activities: They have a reasonable number of hobbies and activities that create positive emotions like gladness, comfort, fun, amusement, and relaxation. For example, they have things they are passionate about, they know how to be present in the moment and enjoy their time, and they know how to be mindful. They may dance, meditate, play tennis, run, walk, and hike or be a part of a book club.

2. Having realistic optimism and a sense of gratitude: They are more optimistic about life. While they are aware of the negative parts of life and its polarity, they focus on the positive more. They also have a sense of gratitude for what they have, from simple to more complex things. For example, they check and remind themselves daily of the things they have and could not.

3. Having a moderate level of self-discipline: They have self-discipline in regards to their behavior and have a healthy structure, but at the same time can be spontaneous. For example, they have structured routines for certain things but don't feel anxious if they have to change or modify them.

4. Using a variety of positive virtues and strengths to be happy: They have a number of strengths and virtues that they use to obtain gratification in the main areas of their life. There are 24 main character strengths that have been identified by Seligman -- from creativity to openness, love for learning, bravery, integrity, authenticity, persistence to loving and being loved among many more. People who have a fulfilled life have many to all of these virtues and use them to create positive feelings within themselves and others.

5. Knowing how to have a long-term sense of happiness: They have ways to have a sense of well-being that is subjective and not just momentary. They have the ability to do a cost-benefit analysis in many cases, and do damage control to see how they can be happy and sustain it. In other words, they do not act impulsively and do not look for instant gratifications.

6. Serving others and something bigger than themselves: They use their strengths and virtues to serve others and something greater than themselves. They find a way to have a meaning in their life by generating something positive that benefits their surroundings, the world and their community.

7. Having the ability to connect to many things on many levels: They have meaningful relationships and connect positively to others. They are generally tolerant and look beyond the tip of the iceberg and try to have drama-free relationships.

Finally, to have a fulfilled life, you have to change your internal world, including your perceptions, your cognitions, how you see things, how you respond to things, and how you interpret them. You also have to make it your goal to want to live a fulfilled life. And remember, you are the master of your own feelings and thoughts, and no one has control over those. The question is, what do you choose for your life and when?

Footnote: There are 24 character strengths (Seligman), which are creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, wisdom/perspective, bravery/valor, integrity/authenticity, persistence, zest/enthusiasm, loving and being loved, social intelligence, kindness/altruism, citizenship, fairness/equity, leadership, forgiveness/mercy, modest/humility, self-regulation/discipline, prudence/caution, appreciation of beauty, gratitude, optimism, spirituality, humor.

Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD

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