The 10 Essentials of a Fulfilled Life
“I wish that we had torn the ticket up.”
“I’d had been better off broke.”
“My inner dialogue was manic.”
Andrew J. Whittaker, Abraham Shakesphere, and Donna Mikkin are responsible for these quotes after stepping into multi-millionaire status from winning the lottery. These people had literally hit the jackpot in life and yet, they still felt unfulfilled.
How bad could winning the lottery really be?
Well Andrew J. Whittaker’s story is a sad one. He was the president of a construction company worth $17 million when he won the Powerball jackpot, cashing in $315 million. The wealthy man became wealthier. Whittaker was not just a wealthy man, but a generous one as well. He donated 10% of his winnings to a Christian foundation, $14 million to his Jack Whittaker foundation and as a thank you to the woman who sold him the ticket, he bought her a $123,000 dollar house, a dodge ram, and gave her $50,000 dollars in cash.
Unfortunately, his generosity didn’t bring him good karma, but quite the opposite.
Following after his charitable donations, he was victim to multiple robberies and had his bank account emptied by thieves. His car was broken into on multiple occasions. His granddaughter and her boyfriend died after a drug overdose and his daughter died only years after the tragic incident. He is now allegedly broke and has given way to an alcohol addiction.
Models win the genetic jackpot. They’re tall, dark and handsome or skinny, curvy and glamorous.
Celebrities win the popularity jackpot. Their names are plastered in the media on billboards, magazines and publications.
Rich folk win the monetary jackpot. They live a lavish life while most of us struggle to pay the bills.
Outwardly, society will say that looks, fame and fortune will take you far in life.
But will your inward dialogue agree?
What is the formula for true life fulfillment?
I hope to give you the ingredients to that formula today. I will also try to make a case for why these life aspects are crucial. Finally, I’ll provide you with some actionable steps on how to start improving these areas in your life, and ultimately, how to achieve that ever elusive fulfilled life.
This post is a longer one. It’s meant to be read in tandem with thinking about the areas in your life you want to work on the most. So feel free to use the table of contents and jump around to the sections that are most relevant for you!
Here are 10 essentials of a fulfilled life:
Table Of Contents
- Practice Gratitude
- Be A Life Long Learner
- Strive For Optimal Health By Balancing These Three Areas: Exercise, Nutrition, And Sleep
- Establish Financial Peace Of Mind
- Foster Right Relationships
- Develop A Healthy Self Image
- Engage In Social Good
- Have Worldly Experiences
- Find Purpose In Your Vocation
- Practice Right Living
1. Practice Gratitude
If you’re upset about losing your wallet, talk to someone who just lost a leg.
If you’re sad about a breakup, talk to a recent widow.
If you’re feeling gloomy about losing your job, talk to a father who just lost his son.
When you realize how much worse off things could have been, you tend to feel more grateful for how things are.
I’m not trying to downplay your misfortunes, but you have the power to adopt a new perspective in your situation: A grateful perspective.
Life is always going to be a rollercoaster of positives and negatives. A grateful attitude acts as a stabilizer during your ups and downs.
Practice intentional gratefulness each day.
Write down in a journal (or on your phone) 3 things you are grateful for each day.
Personally, this is one of the habits I’ve adopted into my morning routine. It has drastically changed my mindset when dealing with my life problems. It’s also enhanced the attitude I bring to each and every day. I recommend you take up a similar gratitude routine in your life.
2. Be A Lifelong Learner
There are endless temporary pleasures in 2018: Netflix, partying, gaming… the list goes on. But, there are few things that give you the authentic and lasting satisfaction, like learning.
When Theodore Roosevelt died, they found a book under his pillow.
George Washington had little-to-no education, yet he had a thirst for studying, especially mathematics.
Benjamin Franklin was famously known for his 13 virtues, a 13 week plan focusing on one of these virtues a week: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility.
Up until the day these historical figures died, they were lifelong learners.
People with a sense of fulfillment are generally life long learners. That’s because lifelong learning has a direct tie to intrinsic fulfillment.
Find a topic you resonate with and pursue mastery in that subject.
Recently, I knew someone who was in a slump. She was out of a job and felt like a “loser” (in her words) after 2 months of job search with no luck.
She lost her confidence and lost her passion for her field in communications.
What kicked her into high gear was picking up a book on human personalities, a topic she was fascinated with.
Her spirit was reignited. She had started envisioning herself with her own podcast covering the topic of personalities. Her life trajectory was pointing true north once again.
Intertwined in the pursuit of mastery are milestones that produce true joy.
There’s a great Youtube series by Wired where they find experts in complex subjects like neuroscience, blockchain and quantum computing. They ask these experts to explain their concept to 5 people in different education levels from a child, a teenager, an undergrad, a grad and a fellow expert.
As the expert advances up the education ladder, you can tell that their passion for the topic surfaces more and more.
You can almost see that they feel liberated to talk about the subject that brings them the most gratification.
Seek mastery in your topic of interest and you’ll find fulfillment in the process.
3. Strive For Optimal Health By Balancing These Three Areas: Exercise, Nutrition, And Sleep
There’s, no doubt, a biological component to fulfillment. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle contributes to your happiness on a biological level.
I won’t preach to the choir on why that’s the case. You either believe in living healthy or you don’t.
I do, however, want to give you practical tips on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle in these three categories:
I just want to preface that I am not a nutritionist or fitness expert by any means. However, I hope to provide you with behavioural tips that have helped me to live a healthier life, in hopes that it will do the same for you.
Find an exercise pattern THAT YOU CAN STICK TO #sweatflixandwill
Can you consistently go to the gym 3 -4 times a week?
Do you prefer doing a simple home workout everyday?
Does a recreational sports team keep you committed to fitness?
Find workout buddies
They say that you are the combination of the top 5 people you associate with. If you’re hanging out with lazy overweight friends, you’re likely going to take up their habits. The opposite holds true too.
Workout buddies can act as an accountability partner
Prepare your workout clothing the day before
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of this simple tip. If you have your workout clothing ready, it’s one less excuse for you to skip your workout.
Keep a set of equipment at home
If you’re finding that you often work late and miss your chance to workout at the gym, keep a set of free weights at home and do a mini workout. Keeping up the habit makes a difference.
Keep a fitness journal or track it on an app. Whatever you decide, make sure you get a dopamine rush by checking off your progress.
Internal motivation is great but sometimes we all need a carrot to keep us running.
Like I mentioned above, I’m not nutritionist so my suggestions are purely anecdotal. I also don’t plan on boring you with cliche nutrition tips like “eat more broccoli”.
Instead, I want to give you some unique tactics to help you structure your life to eat healthier:
Have a concrete list of healthy alternatives!
If you’re about to hit up McDonald’s for the second time this week, check your list of healthy alternatives and you might just be able to satisfy your craving with another option. Substitute fries for chai’s.
Find substitutes for your snacks! If you’re craving an entire bowl of ice cream, maybe a small Hershey’s kiss will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Find healthy snacks that you love
Instead of an entire bowl of Ice cream, maybe opt for a bowl of yogurt.
Spend a bulk of time in the week to meal prep
This was a game changer for me. It’s easy to make the wrong decision when you have no food readily available. But when you have pre-set healthy meals, you’re much more likely to stay to your diet.
Blackout your bedroom
Having any light sources disturb your sleep pattern. Say nighty-night to night lights.
The ideal sleeping temperature falls anywhere between 60 and 67 degree Fahrenheit (15 - 19 degree celsius), and as you sleep, your body temperature lowers naturally.
Download a blue light blocker or set your iPhone on night mode.
Drink Fewer Liquids Before You Sleep
Don’t you hate waking up to have to pee? Once you wake up there’s no guarantee you’ll fall asleep right away too. Less liquids before you sleep.
While alcohol does help you fall asleep quicker and sometimes puts you in a deeper sleep, it also reduces your REM sleep.
Truthfully, I can’t articulate the importance of sleep or the tips for a good sleep half as well as Shawn Stevenson does. Take some time to check out the sleep guru’s thoughts.
4. Establish Financial Peace Of Mind
The lottery winners are living proof that a boatload of money doesn’t always equate to happiness. However, what does produce happiness is establishing financial peace of mind.
Imagine two men standing side by side. One is raking in $500,000/year while the other is making a modest $50,000/year. Which one is in the better financial state?
I believe we need more context to answer that.
What if the person making half a million dollars a year is drowning in millions of dollars of debt? What if that same individual has to work over 80 hours a week to keep up that lifestyle?
What if the $50,000/year person only has to work 10 hours a week to sustain their income? What if they are debt-free?
As you can see from this example, there’s a clear difference between a lump sum of money and financial peace of mind.
Here are a few key differences:
Living Below Your Means vs. Over Spending
Passive Income vs. Active Income
Debt Free vs. In Debt
The mindset that money is a resource vs. the mindset that money is your god
One offers freedom, while the other ties you in bondage.
True wealth gives you the option and resources to live your life to the fullest.
By the time I was 22 years old, I was fortunate to be making a six figure income at a corporate job.
At the time, I had just gotten a promotion to be the head sales coach for my region. My job was to coach sales reps and lead a team of coaches. Seeing others progress through my coaching was fulfilling and I could honestly say that I enjoyed the work of the role. On top of all that, I had a supporting and hands-off boss.
In a lot of ways that was a dream role.
Plot twist: I left that role.
I left my corporate position to pursue my own business because I valued the potential for freedom and flexibility.
When I first stepped away from my corporate role, people thought I was crazy leaving a stable, six figure job with great benefits.
But I had a clear financial vision for myself and I wanted to chase that financial peace of mind, even with the risk involved.
I now have 3 sources of income. Two that are relatively passive (a few SEO freelance clients and this blog) and one active income (a remote marketing role).
I work entirely on a remote basis and have a higher income potential than my corporate role could ever provide.
To this day, I’m constantly re-calibrating my projects (through automation, delegation and other tactics) so that I can establish more financial peace of mind.
The video above is me on my last day of work getting hazed along with the other managers (I’m the one in the white). I thought hazing was supposed to happen when you first start work… :o
P.S. Gotta protect the family jewels ;)
Create a budget where your income is higher than your expenses and stick to it
Use an app to track your spending on a month to month basis. You should never be in the dark about your finances
Follow Dave Ramsey’s 7 baby steps to financial success (I have no affiliation with Dave Ramsey)
Find options to start building an asset that produces passive income for you.
Donate a portion of your income to worthwhile causes. Where you spend your dollars is an indication of what you treasure in life. If you only hoard your money, money will be your idol. If practice generosity, you will see money as a tool to do good in the world.
Establish financial peace of mind for yourself and you will be one step closer to a fulfilled life.
Side note: I am not a financial planner, these thoughts are purely my opinion. I did my best to stick to generalities and shared my personal testimony for those reasons. Look to professionals for specific advice. The action steps are linked to resources that I have found to be valuable and they are written by sources much more credible than myself :)
5. Foster Right Relationships
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” - Teddy Roosevelt
At age 26, Selena Gomez has a net worth estimated at $60 million.
On the outset, everything was going right in her life. However, few people know that she was diagnosed with Lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys, which could cause total kidney failure.
Selena needed an emergency kidney transplant in order to survive but the donor list was 7 - 10 years long.
She told her best friend, Francia Raisa, the sad news. Francia found out that she was a match with Selena and the two friends went in for the operation.
At the billboard awards, Selena accredited her “Woman Of The Year” award to her best friend for saving her life.
This story illustrates the value of a trustworthy relationship better than any fact or figure.
When times are good, it’s easy for us to neglect our relationships, especially our closest ones.
When times are tough however, having someone there for you that truly cares about your well-being is priceless.
If you’ve ever hit rock bottom in your life and have had someone help pick you up, you know that you would trade no amount of money for that relationship.
I can’t speak for Selena, but I would bet that she wouldn’t trade all the money, fame and power in the world for her best friend being there for her and donating her kidney!
There are a lot of things you can build in your life. You could build wealth, build an empire, build a business, and more. I believe the most fulfilling thing you can build are relationships.
As cliche as this might be, on your deathbed, you won’t be thinking about money or status, but you will be looking back on your relationships.
There was a survey conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. They polled 5,000 people and found that doubling your group of friends has the same effect on your well-being as a 50% increase in income. That statistic acts as just one more sliver of proof that earning relational currency is more valuable than money in the long run.
Deposit emotional coins into the love banks of your most important relationships by speaking their love language.
The book the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman talks about how each person has a love bank. When we do something meaningful or add value to the other person, then we’re depositing emotional coins into their love bank. While if they do the same for us, then we are withdrawing from the love bank.
The goal is to keep a positive balance with the people around you.
Each person speaks a different love language. By speaking the right love language, the emotional coin you deposit has more currency.
According to Mr. Chapman, people receive love in 5 ways:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
What are your top love languages? Speak the love language of the people around you and you will have a positive balance with the people around you.
6. Develop A Healthy Self-Image
Earlier, we talked about the importance of fostering right relationships. Perhaps the most important relationship you can cultivate is with yourself.
Your relationship with yourself is reflected in your self-image.
So what is a self-image? The definition is in the name: an image of yourself.
If you have a healthy self-esteem, you won’t over inflate your ego, but you also won’t be self-deprecating/defeating.
You can modify your self-esteem by changing the perspective you have of yourself.
Take time to reflect on the following to understand these areas of your life:
Your strengths and weaknesses
Your inherit inner worth
Your life vision
What you like/ what you don’t like
Crystallize your identity through a self-discovery process and you will start to see yourself in a different light. It won’t be an overnight task, but going through this discovery process is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Self-confidence is built brick by brick. Self-confidence is earned through proving to yourself that you have character.
You build self-confidence by:
Following through on your word
Becoming more competent
Going above and beyond
Getting successes under your belt
Essentially, it is built by developing your character and reputation.
Action Step #1: Recalibrate your internal dialogue to a healthy conversation.
Here’s a sample:
A person with an UNHEALTHY self-image does something positive:
”It wasn’t as good as person B.”
A person with an UNHEALTHY self-image does something negative:
“Wow, I’m an idiot.”
A person with a HEALTHY self-image does something positive:
”I did a great job today!”
A person with a HEALTHY self-image does something negative:
”I’m better than that.”
The dialogue is only slightly different, but I can tell you that it makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
Think about the compounding effect of your self-talk. In a single day, your internal dialogue will not make or break you. But, if you continue your self-talk for a week, a month or a year, you can start to see how it can affect a person’s subconscious, and, ultimately, their self-image.
Side note: We’re not advocating that self-talk can “let you achieve anything”. If you tell yourself you have the power of flight for a year it doesn’t mean if you jump off a building you can grow wings and fly. What we’re saying is that what you tell yourself affects your subconscious, and, ultimately, your mental state.
Action step #2: Leverage the law of input in your life!
The law of input:
your input > Your thoughts > Your words > Your actions > Your habits > your character > Your destiny
If you want a different end result, start by controlling what goes into your brain.
Are you listening to educational audios on your commute to work or top 40 songs?
Are you reading empowering books or watching the latest season of breaking bad?
Are you going to life-changing conferences surrounding yourself with ambitious people or are you going to raves surrounding yourself with people high on ecstasy?
These things are only bad in moderation (except for maybe the ecstasy). But you should still do an evaluation of where you spend your time and what type of input you’re putting into your brain: positive or negative.
Action Step #3: Use the limiting beliefs table to your advantage.
What is the limiting beliefs table?
The face of the table represents a belief you hold. The legs of the table act as reinforcements for that particular belief.
For example, you might think you are a poor public speaker.
The core belief and face of the table is that you are bad at public speaking.
The legs of the belief might be:
you botched your last public speaking opportunity
you aren’t outgoing
you become a nervous wreck in front of people.
Those legs of belief reinforce in your mind that you are a bad public speaker.
If you want to change that core belief, you need to knock off the current table legs and replace them with other ones.
“You botched your last public speaking opportunity” > “But I also rocked the house at this other event”
“You aren’t outgoing” > “A lot of great and influential speakers aren’t outgoing either, but they focus on having a strong message to share”
“You become a nervous wreck in front of people” > “The more I public speak, the less nervous I am. Maybe I just need more practice”
By adding positive legs to your core belief, that belief may change from “I am a poor public speaker” to “I am getting better at my public speaking” to eventually “I am an excellent public speaker”.
7. Engage In Social Good
When you’re going through a rough patch in your life, it’s difficult to think about anything other than your problems. Your issues become all consuming. You can easily fall into a self-absorbed cycle.
The closest thing to an instantaneous cure to your self-absorbed cycle is: taking your eyes off yourself.
Engaging in social good tells your subconscious this crucial message: You are of value to the world.
I once participated in an event called S.P.A.R.K. (Spreading Positivity through Acts Of Random Kindness). The idea was that in a span of a few hours, a group of us would perform as many random nice acts as possible.
It could be anything from opening a door for someone, buying their groceries or simply giving up your seat on the bus for them.
While these acts sounded simple and even mundane, it was a shock to me and the participants how great they felt afterwards.
What was even more astounding was the reactions we got from people doing these small, seemingly insignificant, positive actions. We had participants report on people with beaming responses, just from giving them a simple wide-eyed smile!
It makes sense when you think about it. The mass majority of people are rushing to get to their next destination and are beaten up by the day. The natural bend for the mass majority is self-centred thinking and indifference.
Your tiny light of positivity will shine through the darkness.
What can you do to add value to others? What social causes strike an emotional chord with you?
Find an opportunity to support a cause that you resonate with. Doing so ignites a fire in you to fight for something bigger than yourself.
Whether you can support the cause financially or spend your time volunteering, any effort is fair game.
You’ll find that your self-pity thoughts will evaporate and be filled with others-centered thinking.
8. Have Many Worldly Experiences
You don’t realize how much you live in a bubble until you’ve had a chance to travel.
I grew up in Vancouver B.C. Canada. Scenically, it’s truly one of the most gorgeous cities in the world. It’s one of the few cities where in the same day, I could go up skiing and head to the beach the same day.
It can be easy for me to stay stagnant in a city like that (and a lot of Vancouverites do). But staying stagnant in one place can give you a warped view of the world.
Once I had a chance to experience different countries in continents like Asia, North America and Europe (hoping to expand this list soon), I had a taste of the world. I realized how differently a lot of people grew up culturally, experientially, economically and more!
You and I have a tendency to fall in to a repetitive lifestyle:
Wake up > go to work > go home > make dinner >watch your favourite Netflix show > sleep > repeat process
We can get so wrapped up in our daily patterns and problems that we forget about the big picture in life.
When we travel or gain more worldly experiences, we realize how big the world really is and how minuscule our difficulties really are.
You won’t be worrying about the stress of your work assignments when you meet a wild lion face-to-face on a wild African safari.
Set a goal for yourself to travel to a new country you’ve never been.
Be intentional about conversating with people from all walks of life and backgrounds to gain a wider worldview
9. Find Purpose In Your Vocation
Say you work the standard 40 hours a week with 2 weeks of vacation in a year. You would have spent 2,000 hours working in a given year. Multiply that by 40 years and you will be working 80,000 hours in a lifetime!
That’s a heck of a lot of time to be spending in a line of work you dislike or don’t care for.
But, that’s exactly what most people experience in their lives.
Now, I'm not saying that the only way to find purpose in your work is to be at NASA on the space exploration team or to work with the peace corps.
What I am saying is that there are ways to either instill purpose in your vocation, or to find a path where you feel that ever elusive sense of purpose in your work.
Here are a few important components to consider:
Do you love what you do?
Does your work align with your values?
Are you good at what you do?
Can you generate a return on what you do?
I believe each one of us has an inner compass that can guide us towards the right trajectory, if we let it.
We have a sense of whether our work is moral. We have a sense of whether the company’s values align with our own. We have a sense of whether we feel like we’re making a difference in people’s lives.
Use these questions and listen to your inner compass.
It will no doubt be a tough journey to arrive at work that fulfills you each day, but the end result is well worth it.
If you’re still feeling lost with your life path, we’ve written an article on how to find the right vocation for you here.
When I was younger, I fully bought into the idea of effective altruism.
I thought that the world would be a much better place if we all found vocations in social-oriented projects that yield the most effective benefit to others.
As I’ve progressed in my life, I’ve altered that view in some ways.
I now believe that we all need to consider other factors like our passions, experiences, strengths and more.
Whether your work makes a macro or micro difference in the world isn’t the important factor.
There are many factors that play into fulfillment in your work. Listen to your inner compass to find your proper life path.
10. Practice Right Living To Create Inward Congruency
Who do you spend the most time with? Is it your spouse? Your best friend? A parent?
The real answer is yourself.
If there is anybody’s approval you want to earn, it’s your own. Strive to earn your own respect (hence the word: self-respect).
You earn self-respect by making moral choices and striving to live up to the ideal image you have of yourself. You earn self-respect by practicing right living.
Everyone’s made wrong decisions. Whether it’s telling white lies, doing someone wrong or bending the truth.
These choices begin to eat you up inside. They slowly chip away at your mental state. They drain your energy. In more serious instances, they start to envelop you in a toxic state where you can’t think of anything else but that all-consuming mistake.
Think of it this way, if you’re a pilot flying, and your destination is North, every time you make a choice that’s at odds with what you believe to be right, it takes you one degree off course. Maybe that one degree east or west might have less incoming wind; it may be easier in the short term. But we know the further you are travelling, the more the slightly distorted angle will take you off course.
This may sound cliche, but if you can look yourself in the mirror and be proud of the person looking back, you have achieved a true inner victory.
Included in the inner victory is knowing that you are a person of character. That means doing the right thing when no one is looking.
It’s easy to do the right thing when you have eyes on you. But when you know you can get away with it, that is the true test of character.
By practicing right living you create inner congruency, giving you peace of mind, and ultimately, fulfillment.
Now I feel compelled to be transparent about this part of my inner congruency: the relationship with my God.
If this isn’t your cup of tea, feel free to skip over this section. But as part of my testimony, I can’t authentically share with you what I believe will make a difference in your life without sharing the with you what has been a game changer in my life: my Christian faith.
The more I practice congruency with the way God has designed me to live, the more I find that ever elusive inner peace.
I’m not going to shove a religious belief down your throat. But, I would encourage you to explore your own spiritual beliefs and discover where your core morals and values come from.
Life fulfillment can be an elusive and esoteric term. With all the life challenges that come our way, it can seem as though we’d never reach this height.
I believe that life fulfillment is more of a process than it is a destination. There’s no promise land that we arrive at to rest our laurels. But, I believe that if you strive each day to take concrete steps towards those life foundations mentioned above, you will start find and grow that sense of fulfillment in your everyday life.