With the fast pace of everyday life it’s easy to get a feeling as if you’re falling behind. Finding fulfillment in life can be very hard when one doesn’t feel stable ground under the feet.
Athletes, in particular, live a very competitive lifestyle and might suffer more from not feeling fulfilled. Since most of their life’s focus is on results, setbacks they experience (like a bad training session or over training) carry much more weight.
After not getting expected results some athletes might even feel they are not enough or not worthy or a ‘failure’. Such thoughts can easily creep in and get destructive if we let them.
Finding fulfillment in life is an ongoing process
Negative thoughts can amplify with the use of social media, which tends to showcase only the best parts of life. As we deal with our day-to-day struggles it’s easy to fall into the mentality that others’ lives are much more interesting or don’t have that many problems.
The most important thing about happiness, fulfilment and feeling of accomplishment is that they never come from the outside. They have to be generated from within.
It’s about staying focused on our life. Looking for what moves us and sparks passion. About creating experiences of all different kinds, because that’s what adds meaning to life.
Below are 21 ways to finding fulfillment in life, as well as some ideas that would help to add meaning to everyday activities and help to live more in the moment.
#1 Have a personality
Our unique personality is formed by our values, things we’re interested in and principles we follow.
However, we live in a world dominated by opinions, advertisement and peer pressure. Sometimes the external message is so ‘loud’ that an individual is pushed to accept something he’s not passionate about.
Knowing who you are, what you stand for and owning it takes confidence. Our inner voice always knows what’s best for us and doing things our way brings much more joy than fitting in.
Don’t do something because everyone else seems to. Find a hobby you enjoy and a community that inspires you.
#2 Find your why
One great way of finding fulfillment in life is defining a vision (and writing it down). It’s a powerful tool that guides companies through hard times and it’s even more powerful for individuals.
Have you ever thought about what you want your life to be about? What really matters to you? How the ideal day looks like for you? What brings you happiness and you’d like to have more of?
These are some of the hardest questions to answer truthfully. But answers help guide your everyday life. Does what you do on a daily basis contribute to your vision? If not, take gradual steps to change it for the better.
#3 Have a rough plan in mind
Planning helps bring ideas and desires to life. Sit down with a notebook, think about and write down what do you want to achieve in a week, month, year, 5 years or even 10 years.
Having even a vague idea where you’re going helps to stay focused. Also, simply stating your ambitions to yourself has a magical effect. Somehow, the universe always provides opportunities to make things happen.
#4 Set smaller and more attainable goals
A long term plan of where you want to go is a good thing. However, as a whole it’s just this one dreaded thing you have to achieve, but are nowhere near. It may be very intimidating to the point that you don’t believe in it yourself.
Splitting the plan into many smaller and easily attainable goals creates stepping stones to that massive intimidating cliff. It helps to fully focus on the current work and later appreciate all the hard work.
When I came up with the idea to finish an Ironman it felt very intimidating (10+ hours of exercise is no joke). But after completing 3 marathons, crashing in my first triathlon and finishing a half Ironman race, the whole idea didn’t seem that crazy anymore.
With a fast pace of life we’re always focused on the future and where we want to get. However, as the time passes, more often than not we notice that the journey was in fact the destination.
As a competitive athlete I used to be stuck in this way of thinking for quite a while. I always felt I wasn’t enough and am only allowed to celebrate once I win or achieve the highest ambition I set for myself. The problem with this way of thinking is that until you achieve your big goal you’re not happy. So, more often than not I had a bitter aftertaste after what, in fact, was a pretty good performance.
Setting smaller goals provides many reasons to celebrate and appreciate where you came from. Reward yourself for smaller achievements and don’t always be ‘stuck’ in the future.
#6 Never compare and live where you are
Comparing yourself is the same as living in the future while stuck in the present. Or worse – in the past. When we compare ourselves to something we believe is better we get emotionally attached to that condition and get disconnected from our reality. The bigger the disconnect – the higher the dissatisfaction.
Finding fulfillment in life is not about measuring against others or what we used to be or even where we’d want to be. It’s about playing the card we’re dealt and living where we’re currently at. Not where where we think we could be or where social media tells us we should be.
Accepting that is the hardest part, as media always tries to tell us what we should do with our time & money or even what we should think. If external pressure is too high, a digital detox might be a great way to hit pause and focus on what brings you happiness instead.
#7 Appreciate, don’t complain
Complaining is easy, which is why it’s a standard response to a feeling of frustration, dissatisfaction, being angry, etc. It’s nothing more than an easy way of expressing negative thoughts and emotions. Complaining is a destructive habit and complaining more only cultivates negative thought process.
On the other hand, being thankful for what happens in our life and what we have is very powerful at giving us the control of our happiness. Think about all the things that made you who you are. For sure there have been both good and bad experiences along the way – appreciate that. The more we learn to let go in the moment, the happier we will be.
Negative emotions we hold on to – sadness, anxiousness, envy, etc. – are largely defined by our response to external stimuli. In other words, it’s our problem that we feel annoyed by or disappointed in someone (like when we feel anxious if someone is rude to us).
Often we can’t change or impact the situation we’re in. However, we can always change our response to it.
And that’s where meditation gets important. It’s an extraordinary practice that teaches a person to control the mind, focus better and resist unwanted thoughts. Paired with journaling, it can be a powerful tool for self-discovery and personal growth.
#9 Seek joy first, everything else second
Doing something that sparks passion or joy is a great way to generate energy and positive motivation. That also helps to stay consistent with the habit or practice even when things get a little rough.
Make sure you have fun on a daily basis – both with others and at yourself. Our perception of reality becomes our reality. So, when we focus on pleasing everyone else but us we risk to lose that sense of play that gives the life its colors.
Doing what you hate is a recipe for disaster. If you’ll be spending 10+ hours every week cycling, running, kayaking you should be enjoying the process itself. Not only results that it brings.
#10 Explore diverse hobbies
Do what you love. The secret to lasting happiness is simple – find whatever inspires you and make an effort to do that every day. Both for work and as a hobby.
If possible, try to mix things up, so that you’re not always focused on the same thing. Having diverse hobbies helps to get some perspective on what really interests and sparks passion for us.
Professional athletes, for instance, should find something besides training as a hobby (cooking, maybe?). People with a very ‘quantitative’ job (i.e. accountants, analysts, etc.), on the other hand, might look into exploring their creative side (like writing or drawing).
#11 Have a crazy or scary adventure in mind (or both)
Life shouldn’t be all serious all the time. Having a dream or a crazy adventure on a bucket list adds a bit of thrill to your life and might even help to discover new passions.
This adventure should be something that scares you a little bit, but most importantly something that you feel interested in. It can be as bold as rowing across the Atlantic Ocean or even cycling from Europe to Asia.
Often thinking about and planning such epic adventure makes people realize that big dreams are much closer than they appear.
#12 Create a balance in life
The challenge (or rather beauty) of life is that it’s not about achieving one singe goal. Otherwise, all rich & famous people would be happy.
On the contrary, happiness spans across various areas of life and is always a combination of various factors. We can’t focus only on a single area, because at some point we’ll feel unfulfilled in others. For instance, being rich wouldn’t mean a thing if one doesn’t have a family or a group of friends who care about him to share it with. Just like working a lot to have a successful career at the expense of personal health.
Every person has his or her own recipe, but finding fulfillment in life comes down to putting effort into every of the areas below:
- Family (relationships with immediate family)
- Work & career (achievements, personal projects, etc.)
- Physical (health & well-being)
- Intellectual (learning and self-development)
- Social (relationships with others, social status)
- Spiritual (self-discovery, mindfullness)
In fact, nobody can put it better in words than Tony Robbins. So, I’ll let him do the talking:
#13 Vizualize the ‘perfect life’
Visualizing is a very powerful tool often used by athletes & coaches to improve self-confidence and motivation.
Feeling the inner fire burning and having the motivation to work hard towards something often comes down to perspective. When we dare to visualize the outcome we want, we create a mental and emotional connection with it.
Make the mental image in your head as vivid as possible and try to ‘replicate’ emotions, feelings, environment, sounds – anything you can think of. This emotional connection will send a message to the brain that you’re worth it and the willpower and motivation will grow.
#14 Help others selflessly
Forget about the idea that someone owes you something in life. Even if ‘tangibly’ it’s true.
Be generous instead. Help others without expecting anything in return. Give gifts to others. Devote time and attention to the ones you love and those who you don’t even know. That’s the secret to creating real meaning and finding fulfillment in life.
Ironically, the joy of making someone else happy is what creates happiness for yourself.
Finding fulfillment in life is always about something more than just yourself. There’s little more fulfilling than knowing you’ve made a difference to someone’s life.
#15 Make time for yourself
Don’t wait to complete everything on your TO DO list or please everybody before taking care of yourself. Instead, invest time frequently in self-development. Be it reading, exercise or personal projects – once you’re satisfied, you’ll have more energy to help others.
Personally, I like to spend time on my personal projects very early in the morning. That way I can focus for extended periods of time, as there are less distractions and nothing else to do.
#16 Have a healthy community
As much as we tell ourselves we can make it on our own, people are social by nature and we need to interact with others.
However, it’s important to spend time with the right kind of people – those who support your passions and hobbies, instead of laughing at them. People that will help you grow as a professional and as a person.
They say you’re the average of 5 people you spend the most time with. In the digital age, though, it’s not only them anymore. It’s also who you choose to follow, interact & associate yourself with.
So, surround yourself with the kind of people you admire and look up to. Join discussion/ interest/ mastermind groups that you are interested in and limit the time you spend with people who negatively influence you.
#17 Clean up your diet
Our diet largely defines how good we feel and how healthy we are. And that has direct impact on our well-being.
Heavy (protein-rich) and highly processed meals put a lot of stress on the body by creating an acidic environment and causing inflammation. Processing food also requires a lot of energy and, if eaten too close to bedtime, impairs sleep quality. All of this negatively affects not only our immune system, but also our mood.
The quickest way to be healthier, feel better and have more energy is to add more plant-based meals into your diet. Not only is it good for yourself, but also for the environment.
Moving the body stimulates the blood flow to muscles and organs, which makes them work more efficiently. The effect is as if you’re getting an additional shot of energy.
When you’re feeling low on energy or emotionally down (experiencing a ‘downer’), one of the best cures is to move the body. For instance, go for a brisk walk/ run or do a yoga session.
Moreover, higher intensity exercise stimulates hormone production that keeps us younger and feeling happier. Not to mention the good talks and laughs you’ll get by training in a group.
#19 Spend time in the nature
Nature has a great power to calm down and recharge both the body and the soul. Apart from getting fresh air and, most probably, exercise, spending time in the nature helps to log off from whatever is happening in life.
It doesn’t have to be a spectacular place high in the mountains or a hidden beach somewhere in Bali to provide healing power. A simple walk in the park or a forest is more than enough. It’s appreciating the nature and spending time without devices that does the magic.
#20 Prioritize Sleep
Most of the people don’t get enough sleep. And many who do don’t have enough restorative sleep. You know, the one after which you feel at the top of your game and full of energy.
Restorative sleep leads to more willpower, allows to better respond to everyday stresses, improves health, mood and productivity. A couple of fixes can significantly improve the quality of sleep, which has a massive effect of the overall well-being and quality of life. Why not make that a daily practice?
#21 Have a learning mindset
As a final though I want to leave you with this.
Challenge yourself to grow – make it a priority to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – nobody can avoid making those in life, besides those who never try something new.
Think of yourself as an experimenter. Set your priority not on the outcome, but rather on what you can learn from it. If we don’t attach ourselves to a specific outcome, the ‘fail’ will not bite or impact us as much. Instead of focusing on the fact that we haven’t reached the desired result, we’ll focus on learning something that will get us closer to that desired result.
For example, in surfing ‘failing’ is part of the process. We might expect to have the ride of our lives, but conditions change and ocean usually has its own opinion. Instead of being frustrated at not getting the wave we wanted, a much healthier approach is to treat it as a learning experience. Removing any expectations will allow to have more fun and become a better surfer.