The key to fulfillment is not what you think
Are you chasing dreams or distractions?
Information overload is the greatest threat to your destiny
We live on autopilot – conditioned by algorithms
This behavioural loop was discovered by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov who termed it “classical conditioning”. Classical conditioning is a type of unconscious or automatic learning. When you learn through classical conditioning, an automatic conditioned response is paired with a specific stimulus. This creates a behaviour. We all have been conditioned by the modern world to seek pleasure through the instant gratification of Netflix, Facebook, and other dopamine-releasing stimulants. Instant (or immediate) gratification is a term that refers to the temptation and tendency to give up on a future benefit in order to obtain a less rewarding but more immediate benefit. Whenever we hit a minor speed bump in the pursuit of our goals, our conditioned response is to seek this feeling of achievement and pleasure through a cheap dopamine hit. And so we scroll through Facebook or check our Instagram feed. Once again, we distract ourselves from what is important to us, we do not live according to our values. Marcus Aurelius says, “I have to apply discipline to reach my full potential as a human being. Why would I feel bitter if I am going to do what I was born for? Or is pleasure what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
The key is to live in creation not a reaction
The only way to come out of this mindless dopamine-seeking “zombie-mode” is to become aware of our own desires and set goals in line with these values. Inspiration and creativity are maximized through the pursuit of an honourable goal. It does not matter what the goal is. It does not matter whether it is a big or small goal. We are all biologically wired to work towards a goal that inspires us. This is when the mind and the body function best. Marcus Aurelius believed that we each have a purpose, something that we were created for. It’s our destiny to carry out that purpose. Because it is that same purpose that gets you out of bed each morning. If you have a clear understanding of your goals and how your task fits within them, you’re much more likely to complete those goals.
With clear goals that are aligned with the vision that inspires us, we can now dedicate ourselves to these goals. Challenge is an inevitable part of life. If we do not pursue the things in life that both challenge and inspire us, then our lives will become meaningless and miserable. We will start to minimise ourselves and limit our potential to what we believe we are worthy of. Through the discipline of doing difficult things every day by choice, we earn our self-respect and consequently our self-love. We cannot hide from our subconscious even if we can hide our thoughts and actions from the rest of the world. Our subconscious records every action and decision that we make. Or as Aurelius poetically says: “the soul becomes dyed the colour of its thoughts”. When our thoughts and decisions are not aligned with our values, our souls become dyed a dull and lifeless colour. In contrast to this, when we make decisions and actions that inspire us our souls become dyed a vibrant and joyful colour. We begin to feel a sense of true accomplishment, self-respect, and peace in ourselves.
Inspiring goals bring colour into our lives
It is important that our goals serve others and provide value to the world. Although we tend to focus on larger more prestigious goals it is sometimes more valuable to set mini milestones. These smaller, more attainable goals, will ensure that you’re working towards your desired outcome in small pieces and time blocks. This tactic puts you in the driver’s seat. It gives you a sense of control over the tasks and projects that you’re working on. What you’re ultimately trying to avoid is succumbing to being overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed leads to procrastination, and procrastination creates stagnation, and of course, with stagnation self-discipline cannot exist. Where there is integrity, there will be self-respect. Where there is self-respect, there will be an atmosphere for love and inspiration. The disciplines that we instill in ourselves become our habits and these habits take control of our subconscious thoughts. So if we don’t put in the work to develop integrity in our actions and our habits, our lives will be controlled by our environment and we will merely react to the world in this unconscious state. Our destiny does not manifest itself by mistake. It can only be achieved when our goals are clear and inspiring and when our thoughts and actions match our principles. Your routine is your destiny. Your habits are your personality. So become aware of yourself and fine-tune your lifestyle and routine to match your inspiration in life.
Inspired goals and visions bring intrinsic discipline
Rid your mind of all the thoughts that do not align with your principles. True joy and fulfillment are achieved through commitment, discipline, and dedication. Self-discipline often means putting off your immediate comfort or wishes in favour of long-term success. Let us take a look at an example, if you want to become physically fit, you might endure the short-term discomfort of 5:00 a.m. gym times to attain the long-term benefits of being healthy and feeling great. However, if you do not align your thoughts and actions with what you value, you end up seeking instant gratification. You do not endure the pain required to achieve your desires and you end up quitting. Respect your efforts and respect yourself. This self-discipline will lead to self-respect. When you have both firmly under your belt and you provide value to the world, that is true joy and inspiration.
The criticism and influence from others are some of the other challenges we face when pursuing our goals. Marcus Aurelius says, “Whenever you step out from the norm and declare, even if only to yourself, that you believe you have a special purpose in life, and that you’re going to do whatever it takes to achieve it, you will attract naysayers.” The challenge we face in the pursuit of our goals is an experience necessary for reaching our full potential. Maximum growth occurs on the border of support and challenge. So don’t quit on your goals because of the criticism of others but rather use the criticism to acknowledge that you are doing something of significance.
True fulfillment comes from the pursuit, and not the realisation, of your destiny
Ultimately, what we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. In the world today, if we do not define our character ourselves; we will be defined by what we are conditioned to be. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. When we align our thoughts with our values, when our actions match our goals, and our goals provide value to the world – then we have realised our destiny. It is through the experience and not the achievement of our purpose that we find true fulfillment, self-love, and joy.
Balancing Success and Fulfillment
In summary, we can have both success and fulfillment. Understanding the difference between success and fulfillment is critical if we want to create both in our lives:
1. Success is often measured by tangible results, such as money, fame, or power, while fulfillment is more about feeling satisfied with one’s life.
2. Success is often a short-term goal, while fulfillment is a long-term pursuit.
3. Success is often the result of hard work and dedication, while fulfillment is more about finding joy in the journey.
4. Success is often externally driven, while fulfillment is more internally driven.
5. Success is often focused on the end result, while fulfillment is focused on the process.
6. Success is often about achieving a certain status or level, while fulfillment is more about finding meaning and purpose in life.
7. Success is often about competing with others, while fulfillment is more about competing with oneself.
8. Success is often about making a name for oneself, while fulfillment is more about making a difference in the world.
What is more important to you, success or fulfillment?
In my mind, one is not more important than the other. It is just wise to understand that what most of us are really looking for, is a deep feeling of wholeness, not success. We think e want wealth but what we really want is freedom. We think we want things but what we really want is to feel whole. We think we need to have ambition but what we really need is to feel grateful. When we are satisfied, we feel nurtured, valued, respected and supported. It is these things that make up fulfilment.
In Conclusion – Defining Fulfillment
Understanding the art of fulfillment is key. It is unique to each individual and requires some deep soul searching, but it is worth the effort because, as Tony Robbins likes to say:
“Success without fulfillment, is the ultimate failure.”