By Lana Goes
Are you unhappy and dissatisfied with life? Do you think that you are aimlessly moving with no vision? If you want to change the direction of your life or lead a more fulfilled life, with meaning and authenticity, then you are in the right place. I hope my journey can shed light on yours.
What does it mean to live a fulfilled life?
To live a fulfilled and authentic life means living a life aligned with your purpose and calling. It is to try to make heaven on earth by making a difference in your life and the lives of others. It is living life on your terms and lets you be the guide for your life. For that, we should stop living on autopilot like Robots and need to be clear of our vision. This vision will guide us to take the necessary steps.
4 clues that you do not lead a fulfilled life
1) We do not lead a fulfilled life if we live a life like my IRobot Roomba.
If we live like my I Robot — Roomba, it is a clear sign that we do not lead a fulfilled life. What does that mean? My Roomba leaves my floors immaculate. I just press start in the morning and it goes on like a headless chicken with some marginal amount of intelligence. But boy, does it keep my floors sparkling! The life we live today is similar to Roomba. We get up in the morning, press the start button, and go on non-stop with life. Do we ask questions? No, we just execute without reflection. We do not ask if there are other options. No, we just do it. We crunch the damn numbers and live like zombies, with mental lists galore. We are continuously on the checklist and go tick, tick, tick.
2) If we allow fear to control us.
The second clue is if we are so paralyzed with fear that we don’t think straight. When we live in such a state, we stop believing in ourselves. We don’t take risks nor do things that we love. We don’t have time to love others. So we compensate it with money, status, job security, perfectionism, overwork, etc. We continue till the day ends like zombies and like my Roomba, we robots go back to our dock, only to start all over again tomorrow. All things on the list checked. Job well done and we expect a pat on our pat.
3) We do not live a fulfilled life if we are too clouded to know what’s not important
The next clue is if we are constantly unhappy or feel lackluster. We will have it all, the house with the picket fences, beautiful spouse, wonderful kids, friendly neighbors, and the clubs. You name it. We’ll have it! But what we don’t have is the time to appreciate the beauty of it all because we are constantly distracted. We are so wrapped up delivering, acquiring, safety, stability, and fear that we miss out on the simple and beautiful things of life.
4) We do not lead a fulfilled life if we only depend on external sources to guide us
If we do not believe in our light and constantly seek validation from others, it is a clue that we do not live a fulfilled life. When I ask Roomba to do something out of the manual, it says, ‘ ‘It’s not my job! My job is to give you a squeaky clean house. Don’t ask me for anything that’s not mentioned in my instruction manual!’ Like Roomba, we too expect an instruction manual to guide us. We don’t believe in ourselves and instead, look up to others to guide us or seek their approval.
How do we lead a fulfilled life?
We can lead a fulfilled and authentic life by asking ourselves pertinent questions and reflecting on the choices we make. Some of them are outlined below
Step -1: self-assessment or find your road map
What do we want/love in life?
Most often we go through life like headless chickens not knowing what we want. Some of the questions that need answers are: How do we want to spend our time? Do we want to spend more time with family? Or do we want to make a difference in people’s lives? If yes, how do we go about doing that or how do we take small but necessary steps in that direction?
What do we not like in our life?
To ensure our time is well spent, it is also important to know what we do not like about our life so that we can make changes in those areas. Some of the questions we can ask ourselves are: Do we love our jobs and our colleagues? Is our job draining the life out of us? Are we settling for less than we deserve? Is the travel time worth it? Once we have those answers, what steps can we take to actively reduce those things which do not add value to our life?
How are we in the self-care arena?
The next question we need to be asking ourselves is about our health, exercise, and nutrition regime. Are we happy with our health and exercise routine? Are we grossly neglecting it or are we overdoing it? Do we have adequate rest and sleep or are we burnt out and overwhelmed? Is our food intake satisfactory? Does it include real food or food out of the box every day? If any of these areas are not satisfactory, what steps are we taking to change the course?
How are we in the connection circle?
We need to assess how we connect with society at large? Are we happy with our connections? Do we have enough friends when the going is rough? Or do we have a support system? Do we talk to our neighbors and know what’s happening in their lives? Do we chat and connect with our parents and siblings? If not, what steps can take to remedy that?
Do we have time for ourselves?
Lastly, we need to assess if we have time for ourselves and the things that enrich us. Do we have time to pursue the things we love, our passions and hobbies? Do we even remember what they are? If not, what steps are we doing to get out of the rut?
Step 2 — Taking action
Now that we have the map, (our life vision) of what we want, the next step is to take action. Without action, everything is a pipe dream. What we need to do is to take action aligned to our purpose and vision. The road to that is not easy, nor is it wise to shift gears instantly. Some of the ways I have found helpful in taking aligned action are outlined below:
Find your playing field
Before making any changes to your life, it is important to find your playing field. For example, if you want to spend more time with the kids, but can’t quit working, either for financial or for personal reasons, being creative in your decisions will help steer your ship in the right direction. You could consider options like finding a job that suits you better or look at part-time roles. When I realized that I wanted to spend more time with the kids as they grew up, I quit my banking job to work in a school as a teacher for a few years. As the kids grew older, I moved back to a finance-related role in a part-time position. What I wanted in life guided my career decisions instead of it being the other way around.
Find your trade-off
The choices you make impact you more than you can imagine. Hence before embarking on a new journey, it is important to gauge your limits so that you can avoid overwhelm. What helps in this area is to know what you are ready to trade-off.
I battled a lot with myself before I quit the bank as it created a hole in my heart. Banking was not only my life and soul but also a big part of my identity. But with pressures mounting from all sides, health, family, and work, I felt I wouldn’t be doing justice to any areas. So I made the difficult choice of quitting the bank. I also did not want the most precious days of my children growing up to be filled only with overwhelm, firefighting, and haggling with people. But I wanted it to be filled with love as I enjoyed my time with them and watch them grow. So banking had to get the boot!
Be patient and consistent
The journey does not have unicorns and rainbows but instead has a lot of doubts and second-guessing. Every day when I reached the school I had to teach in, I wanted to take a U-turn and return home. Neither the money motivated me nor the job role. But the key was to be consistent and remind myself of my why. With time, I was able to able to embrace the role and warm up to it. I began to see the good things it offered like summer holidays and other days off. I was able to use that time to recuperate and recover from the 3 years of sleepless nights which had taken a toll on me mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Find a support system
It is important to find people who understand you and support your decision and make them part of your close circle. Whereas people who make you question your decision are best kept at arm’s length or take their opinion with a pinch of salt. When I doubted my decision and wanted to quit the teaching job, my husband stood like a cheerleader and encouraged me all the way through.
Aim for smaller goalposts
Aiming for smaller goalposts, especially, in the beginning, eases the ride! In the beginning, I found it frustrating to accept the change, but thankfully for me, I had joined in the last 2 months of the school year. I had the summer holidays to look forward to and I kept reminding myself of it. I aimed at staying strong until the summer holidays before I took any impulsive decisions.
The journey to a fulfilled life is ongoing and has no final destination. You will know when it is time to shift gears again. Once my kids started their school life and I had more time in my hands, I felt it was time for me to get back to the banking field. But since I was enjoying family life thoroughly, I did not want to go back to a 9*5. So, instead, I started working for a mortgage broker 3 days a week. That decision led me first to become a mortgage advisor and subsequently a shareholder in my business. So one tiny decision changes the course of my journey.
The way forward
If you want to embark on this journey of leading a fulfilled and authentic life, take stock of what you want and don’t want in life. Once you have your roadmap in front of you, the only thing left is to take aligned action. The journey is not easy and to make the ride smooth, know your playing field, find your trade-off, be patient and consistent, have your support system close to you, aim for smaller goalposts, and review your goals periodically. I hope to see you on the other side!