This is a post for the countless driven and successful who have worked hard to reach their goals, only to realize that success didn’t bring fulfillment or peace.
You were taught at an early age that if you worked hard and persevered in your efforts, you would come out on the other side of life successful and satisfied.
Encouraged by the relative simplicity of this life-formula you gave it your all. You made the grade, hit your mark, progressing from one set of expectations to another and from one challenge to the next.
You did it to please others (your parents, your teachers, your bosses) and because you yourself derived satisfaction from your accomplishments and the praise that came with it.
You persisted in your course so you could catch-up to your friends, who according to their social media profiles were living the life. Certainly all your efforts would get you there someday too. You did it all day, everyday, because you have a vision of what your life could be, and this is the only way you were taught to reach it.
You are driven so you moved ahead, succeeding in what you set out to do, and reaching most of the goals you thought you should be aiming for! But, once you got there and had the time to looked around, the scene wasn’t quite what you expected.
You were told you would be living the dream – an exciting life, full of potential and fulfillment. Instead the average day feels dull, confining and somewhat underwhelming.
Somewhere along this life’s journey, dreams and potential got replaced by bills and expectations. The temerity and drive of your earlier years are now gone, and in their place is fear and doubt.
There is fear of losing the comforts you have worked to acquire, mixed with the fear that this is it, and underwhelmed is your average. You doubt yourself, and question your ability to change and grow so far along in the game.
You worry that aiming for anything more might look foolish, be reckless or worse, that you might be wrong, and there is actually nothing more you can realistically expect from adulthood.
Driven, you were, successful you are, satisfied, fulfilled, not so much.
[bctt tweet=”Somewhere along this life’s journey, dreams and potential got replaced by bills and expectations.” username=”lifenfocus”]
A Rude Awakening
I’ve written about this before, but whether we’re talking mid or quarter life crisis, or just plain old “where-the-hell-did-I-go-wrong”-itis, the problem is the same.
To proceed in life blindly, without frequently stopping and asking yourself what you need, what’s right for you, and how that can fit in your everyday is a sure way of ending-up driven, successful and underwhelmed.
Drive is great when applied to the right things, success is always sweet, but never more so than when it is tied to a goal that has real meaning to you. Underwhelmed is simply a sign that what you are applying yourself to is out of sync with who you are.
I have seen this play out in so many life contexts:
- Education: get a degree then realize you’ve been working towards something that you have no desire to do.
- Career: start out at a job you like or even love, then 5-10 years later realize you’ve climbed the ladder, but have no passion for what you do because it no longer feeds your soul.
- Work: take a job you don’t want ‘temporarily’ to pay the bills while you figure out what you’ll be when you grow up. Then a few years later realize you are still in the same place, but now you feel trapped because it’s your only experience. Oh, and those bills didn’t stop coming.
- Love: you found someone who was your moon and your stars. Then you get comfortable, possibly too comfortable. Months or years go by and you realize that you have a roommate, not a lover or a companion. You changed, they did too. Neither of you stopped to think about it or address it.
- Friendships: you have a bunch of people you call friends, but when you consider the relationships individually you realize that somewhere along the line you are bound more by habit and circumstance, than deep connections, trust and love.
- Self: You take yourself for granted. You stopped asking yourself who you were, what you wanted, or if you were satisfied at all. One day you realize you can’t even answer a simple question like, “what makes me happy?” You feel stuck because you’ve lost touch with what matters.
Driven, Successful and Fulfilled?
You already have the first two qualities honed and perfected; you are still driven, and you are successful. Fulfillment simply requires an age-old practice, one so fundamentally true and universal that it’s been taught since the time of the ancient Greeks: Know thyself.
It really is no more complicated than that.
If you want to avoid working towards something that will leave you underwhelmed. If you’re already looking at your life and feeling like ‘blah’ describes most days, start by getting to know yourself. It’s incredible what a little insight can do. Rediscover who you are or want to be and live true to that person. The changes you make don’t have to be radical to have a huge impact.
Finding fulfillment is not a matter of reinventing the wheel, nor shaking things up. It is about connecting everyday with choices that are profoundly meaningful because they relate to who you are right now.
You don’t need to take a sabbatical or hike the Kilimanjaro (although that would be amazing and you’d be the envy of everyone on social media), leave your spouse, or completely reinvent yourself. If you’re dying to go from driven, successful and underwhelmed to driven successful and fulfilled, all you need is to build a bit of insight, and learn to express who you are in the things you do and want to do.
The best part of it all is that a single change can have a watershed effect.