I believe we all want to live a life that has meaning and that we are most satisfied when we are living for something greater than ourselves. This is the purposeful life. Caring for family, volunteering, creating opportunities and a better life for others are all examples commonly thought of as purposeful.
Is purposeful enough?
Fulfilling, on the other hand, per the Oxford English Dictionary, means “making someone satisfied or happy because of fully developing their character or abilities.”
To be purposeful involves living beyond ourselves, but to be fulfilled adds the notion that we must be developing our character or abilities. To be fulfilled brings our unique self into the picture.
We can be living a purposeful life, but if we’re not developing and utilizing our strengths we may not be completely satisfied. In fact, if we’re continually serving others in a purposeful way, yet ignoring our own needs for fulfillment, we can burn out.
Are you fulfilled?
What do you do out of service to others or as a part of your value system, that you don’t really enjoy? Maybe you’re taking care of someone or perhaps you’re on a committee because you want to help a very worthy organization, but now that you’re in the midst of it, you dread it. Why? Maybe you’re not drawing on any of your strengths. Maybe it’s a role that doesn’t require those elements that energize you.
And if it’s a task that you MUST do (i.e. you don’t have a choice) and you’re feeling drained, then just maybe you’re not finding other ways of re-energizing yourself and engaging in fulfilling activities.
We can fall into the habit of doing those things we “should do” out of care for or purpose toward others. But we still get burned out.
Not all of us were made to be Mother Theresa. What more do we need?
I’m not suggesting you abandon everything you don’t enjoy. What we can do is look at how to add to our fulfillment while still aligning with our values.
I’m a perfect example. I feel like I live a life of purpose. Family is very important to me, helping and serving others is very important to me. All of those are a significant part of my life. But I need more to be happy and fulfilled. I need the things that energize me, that use my creative talents, my people insight and my intellectual analysis. That’s why I’m a coach. It doesn’t make me any less effective in any of my other roles of wife/ daughter/ grandmother/ sister/ etc. I’m just more fun to be around when I’m not burned out from solely focusing on the needs of others.
An Exercise for You
Write down the top 5 things that make your life purposeful. Then write down the top 5 things that you look forward to and get excited about every day. Do they overlap? Did you struggle to identify activities for your excitement list?
If there’s no overlap and worse, if you’re not feeling good about the day ahead when you wake up in the morning, then we need to talk. There’s work to be done to find that purposeful AND fulfilled space in your life. You can have both. That’s where coaching can help. Schedule a 20 minute coaching discovery call here and we’ll talk about how to find that fulfilled space in your life or career.
Photo: Lukiyanova Natalia Frenta/Shutterstock