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Battle of the Ages: Fulfillment vs Gratitude

Do you now or have you ever had that little feeling that even if you know you have a great life, you still don’t feel….something?

When I started working with my coach, that’s what I had. I told her I was becoming a not very nice person and I because I felt like my days had no real purpose. I had worked very hard and earned the job I wanted. I had the cutest(not sweetest) pupster who I loved. I had finally found an amazing man who pushed me, made me laugh, understood me and figured out how to “handle” me(those of us with anxiety & adhd know we need handling sometimes). I should have been soaring high. But I wasn’t. I was frustrated. And taking it out on people and things around me, especially strangers.

What was this something I was feeling? It was a lack of fulfillment. Does that sound make me ungrateful? I definitely thought it did. I thought fulfilled had to do with fullness, which to me, meant having things that other people didn’t. I was afraid to acknowledge that I felt a lack of fulfillment, because people would think I wasn’t grateful for everything I had. Because days were missing something fundamental to me, I was not a happy person. Here’s the key thing...You can’t fix or solve a problem you won’t acknowledge. That’s why acceptance is one of the first things they talk about with addicts and those suffering grief.

So if fulfillment is not simply feeling gratitude, what the heck is it?

According to Merriam-Webster, fulfilled is an adjective that means feeling that one’s abilities and talents are being fully used. Similarly, unfulfilled means not having fully utilized or exploited one’s abilities or character. Woah! Hold the phone. That has nothing to do with gratitude! In fact, if you look at it properly, if you are feeling unfulfilled, it means that you believe you have more to give the world, you want to give more to the world. You want more time to raise better sons or daughters or be a better partner or friend; you want to give and thus receive more love which will help heal the world; you want more responsibility at work to better serve your company/boss.

Now that we know what it is and can acknowledge it’s how we feel, what do we do about it?

Practice gratitude. (You think I’m kidding right?) While feeling unfulfilled doesn’t mean you lack gratitude for all you have, the work required to figure out what you are missing and how to get more of it is easiest done from a place of possibility, of positivity and optimism. Think of it this way: Is it easier to drive in the fog or the middle of a blizzard or downpour? Or is it easier to find the right lane and exit under calmer weather? The quickest way to enable that is to practice gratitude. Actively acknowledge all that you have and have achieved, as well as where you want more. This will raise your mood, help you feel better. You’ll also gain perspective about all that you have achieved, which will help you remember that the world is full of possibility.

For me, I was immensely grateful to be in an executive position at work that enabled me to develop people on a daily basis. If I hadn’t done the work, I could have still been an individual contributor with much less opportunity to develop people. BUT. I knew I wanted to do more of it. I didn’t want to spend a few hours a week developing people who may or may not be really interested in development. I wanted all my hours of my weeks focused on developing people who wanted to be and achieve more.

My path wasn’t actually as easy as it sounds. There was all sorts of work done to look under all sorts of rocks to figure out what it was I wanted more of. And, as I began to realize what I wanted and what was possible in one area of my life(career), I soon raised the standard in the other areas of my life and wanted to feel more fulfilled in my relationships, my personal life, etc. As they say, there is always work to be done. But, as long as the work has purpose and is creating a more fun life, I’m game.

As I like to say, more fabulousness is always possible.

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