12 Things Truly Fulfilled People Understand

When the end goal is to have something tangible, the "end goal" has not actually been identified yet.
09/11/2015 11:34 am ET Updated Sep 11, 2016
Woman working at laptop in office
Woman working at laptop in office

Fulfillment may seem like the elusive desire that's driving an entire consumerist market, but that's only because smart people are capitalizing on something that's ingrained in all of us (or at least, ingrained in us by the millions): We have an aching desire to live a meaningful life, but no one really seems to know how.

Somewhere along the line, we confused happiness for what we have, as opposed to what we do. We thought that the solution to an incomprehensible emptiness was to fill everything else around us. Needless to say: This has mostly, if not entirely, failed.

To be truly fulfilled is to be happy because of your own self-realization. It is to come to such a genuine understanding of what you want that not doing it isn't an option anymore. It's seeing beyond the mindsets you adopted, or the ideals that are not inherently your own. It is the humble simplicity of what you want to offer the world each day, and it is the love you awaken as you do it.

Here are 12 things truly fulfilled people understand:

1. Success is falling in love with the process, not the outcome.
It's making your dreams about the journey, about the "doing," about the day-in-day-out routine and minutiae. The life you want lies within the simplicity of your everyday tasks. You can't only focus on writing the synopsis and then wonder why you don't have a book yet.

2. Only some happiness is valued in society.
Not everybody will applaud the fact that you left your job to work at a coffee shop because it's what you love. There is really only one kind of happiness that society values, and that's the kind that society is comfortable with: the kind that is far enough removed from genuine contentment that nobody else feels pressured to consider how unfulfilling his or her own life is. Do not let other people's demons determine what your happiness is. Do not let other people's fear make you afraid, too.

3. Love and success aren't non-renewable resources. Someone else's successes don't take away from your own.
This belief first appears for most people in elementary school: We see that some people are popular, and some people aren't. Some people can be happy; some can't. Often, this is where the lifelong competition that only ever exists in our heads begins. Someone else's success doesn't make you less successful. If someone else receives love or praise, that doesn't mean you aren't love- or praise-worthy. You are not only as good as you are better than someone else.

4. The happier you are with a decision, the less you need other people to be.
The happier you are with what you do, the less you need other people to support you. Ironically, it's also in being happier with what you do that you'll find the support you were looking for before you knew how to give it to yourself.

5. The end goal is to see how the simplest things are the most extraordinary.
When the end goal is to have something tangible, the "end goal" has not actually been identified yet. Tangible goals -- money, books, job titles, and so on -- are mile markers. They are the products of your life, not the goals of your life. The goals are to be truly fulfilled. The book you finally write is not your fulfillment; it's one expression of it. Don't confuse the radio for the sound wave.

6. You don't "have" to, you "get" to.

This is one of the simplest changes in perception: knowing that everything is an opportunity to experience. You don't have to go to work, you get to go to work. You don't have to wake up early, you get to wake up early. When you start considering things not as obligations but as opportunities, you start taking advantage of them, rather than trying to avoid them.

7. Easy does it, and does it well.

It's a phrase used so frequently, and yet rarely ever with understanding. Anything that is genuine and wonderful and most probably successful is effortless. The state you're in when you're creating will be what the outcome is. The more ease and love you put into it, the more other people will get out of it.

8. Anything that exists in your life exists because you created it. Anything that persists does so because you are feeding it.

Consider this: Every one of your actions feeds something within you. It feeds your desire for control, your love for your job, your spitefulness toward your sister, your complacency with your marriage. Every action creates and compounds upon something that already exists. With this in mind, ask yourself what it is you feed each day... Your life will make more sense if you do.

9. It's not about whether or not you listen to yourself; it's about what part of yourself you listen to.
Most people find it almost impossible to listen to their instincts because they don't know what they're saying. Or, worse, they've listened to them before and they've been destructively incorrect or short-sighted. That's because at any given time, there will be many different "voices" that drive you to different outcomes. Your immediate instincts may be geared more toward protecting you than expanding you. They could be speaking out of a place of fear. You have to ask yourself: What is the root of this reaction, where does it come from, and what is its outcome, in the long term?

10. Even when you justify your judgment of people by how right you are, you're still wrong.
It doesn't matter how awful someone is being, or how correct you are in your takedown of their mental-emotional state. You're still wrong for doing it. It's not your job to police for the universe; it's your job to take care of why you feel more comfortable making assumptions about others than processing the assumptions you fear they're making about you.

11. Your soul knows what to do to heal itself -- the challenge is just to let it.
Much mental and emotional healing comes from first completely addressing the problem. You'll find that, throughout your life, you'll create situations again and again that all but force you to address some longstanding issue. That's not because you necessarily want to torture yourself, but rather because you want to address it, and bring it to your conscious awareness, so you can deal with it and let it go. Trust in your nature. It can know more than your mind.

12. You probably can't be whatever you want, but if you're really lucky, and you work really hard, you can be exactly who you are.

... Which is all most people ever want, anyway. Grandiose visions of being something spectacular -- and spectacularly removed from someone's skill set and personality, etc. -- can be measured in proportion to how much the person in question feels he/she is lacking. The funny reality is that people who accomplish incredible things never think of them as incredible; they think of them as normal. It's that integration into "normalcy" that makes it a pattern, which makes it a routine, which makes it a habit, which ultimately makes it a product. That drive and consistency is born of one thing and one thing only: doing something in alignment with who you truly are. It is a privilege, albeit an extraordinary challenge, to wake up to yourself -- and even more so to find someone who loves that person, a job that utilizes that person, and a life that fully realizes that person, even if you denied him/her along the way.

Love this? Want more? Check out the author's website, Soul Anatomy, on Facebook and Twitter.