This year why don’t we bring spring cleaning to our emotional lives as well. Let’s find more fulfillment. But to find more fulfillment we need to get rid of a few things. We need a spring rain to clean away the old and let in the new.
Here’s five tips.
1. Wash away the idea that Success brings fulfillment
So much emphasis is placed on success in our culture that it becomes an end unto itself. Often we’re not even sure what success is, what it looks like, what it feels like.
Too often it’s just a sense of having more. More money, more fame, more recognition. Once in a while it’s about achievement. Achievement is good. It feels good to achieve things.
But we are so often fixated on the end result that we forget about the process or the pursuit. You know, the work you do every day for weeks or months or years to achieve that success. Are you enjoying the process, all those little steps along the way? Are you finding fulfilment in the little things? You know the old adage: Do what you love, love what you do.
Or are you toiling for months or years believing that those few moments of fulfillment at the very end make it worthwhile?
Here’s is the key to throwing away that fixation on success: If you enjoy the pursuit, it doesn’t matter if you “succeed.” And if you succeed while enjoying the pursuit, then I guess that’s a bonus.
2. Sweep out the idea that Money and Possessions bring fulfillment
Even the Beatles figured this one out when they said “Money can’t buy me love.” Just like the pitfalls of success, the accumulation of money has become an end unto itself. If you’re not enjoying the pursuit, is the money worth time spent without joy? You don’t get that time back, you know.
Here’s a way to think about money: No amount of money can buy back joyless time.
We also like to accumulate things. Retail therapy has become a mainstay of our society. We like the tiny charge we get from buying things.
But the charge doesn’t last and then you’re stuck with lots of things. Things you have to deal with. Things you have to clean. Things you have to store. Things that take up space. Things you have to spend time thinking about.
I spent the weekend cleaning out a house. It was rather full of things. Each thing in itself was not a bad thing. But how many of each thing do we need? How many things become unnecessary? How much effort was it to store and work around? How much bigger of a house was needed to hold it?
Lots of time and energy spent on things. Time and energy you don’t get back.
Here’s a way to deal with the need for possessions: Learn to find joy in the object without possessing it. Think of it like going to a museum and admiring the art. There’s joy in appreciating the art piece. But you don’t take the art home. You just enjoy its existence.
3. Recycle the notion that Competition brings fulfillment
Life is not a competition. Sure we have that whole survival of the fittest history we have to deal with.
But is competition in your daily life really necessary? I know we’re obsessed with sports and who’s the best. And we place inordinate amount of value on the results of these competitions. So much so that this need for competition has invaded all facets of our culture. Just look at television. Everything is a competition. “The Biggest Loser” is a weight loss competition. “The Bachelor” is a dating competition. “Survivor” is a douche bag competition.
We’ve created an endless need to compare ourselves to others. But we’re all different. We have different strengths and weaknesses. Yet competitions are a set of arbitrary rules to define who is better. Competitions are about extreme dedication to a narrow set of specialized skills. Extreme dedication and specialized skills most of us don’t have.
The only competition you should have if you need one is with yourself. That’s not to say we don’t need assessments of what we know. At school or work you need to know how well you have mastered knowledge or skills so you can improve and move forward. You need to be measured against a body of knowledge not your classmate or coworker.
A good way to remove competition from your life is to focus on what you want to be good at and define that for yourself. Assess your own skills and talents against where you want to go. Find the pursuit that brings you fulfillment. Not some pursuit someone else has defined.
4. Dust away the idea that Perfection brings fulfillment
Who decided that perfection was the most important goal? I want to meet that person and give ‘em a good tug on the ear. How did we let the anal retentives of the world make the rules? Why do we want judge someone based on the number of errors they didn’t make? Who decides what constitutes an error anyway?
Again we give some over-inflated value to the idea of perfection. Again it’s a focus on the final product that gets us in trouble. Day by day fulfillment isn’t about the final product. It’s about the process. We spend way too much time beating ourselves up when our efforts don’t result in perfection, perfection defined by some one else.
Life is too complex to have one measurement of perfection. We’re too complex to have one idea of perfection.
The key to the dusting away of perfectionism begins by realizing the process and the effect of the process are what bring fulfillment, not perfection.
We do or don’t do so many things dictated by the society and culture around us. Expectations placed on you. These expectations come in all forms. While some are certainly necessary, many are not.
You just have to ask yourself: Am I doing this because it is expected of me? And yes sometimes you should do it. But sometimes you shouldn’t. Because sometimes it is like society is bullying you. Society doesn’t see it that way because there’s surety in numbers. If you feel bullied, you’re being bullied. Don’t let society hide behind its mob mentality.
The challenge, of course, with not adhering to expectations is that society likes to apply consequences. They can be subtle like a look or they can be blunt like a rebuke. You may be ostracized.
So you have to make tough choices in shedding societal norms. Sometimes it’s as easy as not caring what other people think. Sometimes you might have to sacrifice something.
The easiest way to mop up unneeded societal norms is to ask why. Why am I doing this? Do I feel this time is being coerced out of me? Time I can’t get back. Time I could be spending elsewhere?
Pitching societal norms can be hard. But it can be liberating. It’s your life.