Aim for Fulfillment Not Happiness
If you read my blog, you know that now is not the perfect time in my life.
For the last few years, I’ve been caring for my Mom who has Lewy Body dementia with an extra dose of Parkinson’s. She recently broke her hip and was just released from a rehab center. My son is going through an awful divorce. My mother-in-law is fighting ovarian cancer and her numbers are up which means another debilitating round of chemo. We are a couple of weeks from the completion of building our new home which is a bright spot in my life but is also stressful. Budgets, getting a mortgage loan, and an upcoming move are all dancing around in my head.
So stay with me here. I’m not whining about my life. Believe me, I have many blessings to count and I have learned to savor the day and appreciate the small moments of joy that we all experience.
But are these the happiest days of my life? Let’s just say I’m not exactly doing cartwheels of joy or a happy dance right now.
And that’s my point. I want to be clear. Just because I write a blog about happiness doesn’t mean I believe that you should feel inadequate because you can’t maintain a certain level of glee at all times.
Happiness is not Sustainable
We live in a strange era where boundless happiness studies, books, and websites like mine rule. While they provide some useful information, all that hoopla about happiness could make us feel that if that fleeting feeling of joyfulness escapes us, we’ve somehow failed. Or that our lives are lacking in some fashion.
We baby boomers might be especially vulnerable to these feelings since we grew up in an age of entitlement where we were taught to go after whatever makes us happy. If we can’t achieve that elusive happy feeling at all times, we feel a bit insecure and disillusioned. Like something is wrong with us.
But here’s the thing. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, worried, or depressed sometimes. These are perfectly natural feelings. We don’t have to be happy 24-7. The simple truth is that a giddy feeling of happiness is not sustainable.
Aim for Fulfillment
So instead of shooting for happiness, why not aim for fulfillment instead?
That’s what Michael Hedrick suggested in his article written for Psych Central, Why You Should Seek Fulfillment Instead of Happiness.
“Fulfillment is the idea or feeling that things are okay even if you’re going through a rough patch,” Hedrick wrote. “It’s the knowledge that you’ve got comfort and a stable foundation and that you’re working towards something bigger.”
As he points out in his article, fulfillment means different things to different people. Many seek fulfillment through spirituality. That’s certainly true in my case. No doubt, I’ve gained a sense of purpose, meaning in life, and personal satisfaction from studying the Bible and striving to live my life in a way that pleases God. Helping others and making a difference in people’s lives, developing your character and abilities, or achieving a goal can also feel fulfilling.
So make fulfillment your target.
As Albert Einstein said in one of my favorite happiness quotes, “I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves – such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine…The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.”
So maybe Bobby McFerrin shouldn’t sing: “Don’t worry, be happy,” but instead say, “Don’t worry, be fulfilled.” I admit, not quite as catchy, but more realistic!
Images courtesy of marcolm and renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
I hope that the situations in your family’s lives become resolved in good ways. Wishing for the happiness of others may be the best path to feeling happy ourselves, but what do we do when our best efforts don’t seem to help them either? I guess we just have to reassure ourselves that we are doing the best we know how to do, and remain open and available as much as we can.
Thanks for the kind words, Michael. And very true, we are all doing the best we know how to do and we can be reassured by that. I appreciate your thoughts and taking the time to write.