Personal Fulfillment

by Christopher Lovejoy on August 6, 2010 · 15 comments

Lying on my back under a tree, with my head in my hands, I gazed up at the leaves tossing and turning in the breeze above me, soaking up the rays of the sun and feeling blissful.

I was on a small private island in the Domain of Killien, feeling like I was in the middle of nowhere, on a warm, breezy summer afternoon, not far from the resort where I stayed.

I had lost all sense of time. Without a care, concern, doubt, or worry in the world, I was in a wild kind of heaven, away from the stress and the strain of modern day living and loving.

It felt good to be here, all alone, following my bliss, letting my mind drift, inviting my soul, relaxing my body, and giving my spirit rest. I heaved a sigh of contentment.

Your Path, Your Vision

Today, I consulted a dictionary, and as I read the definition of fulfillment, I realized the term had two essential meanings: execution and completion.

In other words, I learned that the fulfillment of my promise as a person is both an act or process of fulfilling my promise and a quality or state of being fulfilled in that promise.

Let me switch perspectives for a moment.

The ways in which you choose to fulfill your promise is your path of fulfillment and the way in which you imagine your quality or state of being fulfilled in this promise is your vision of fulfillment.

The image I sketched at the start of this post was, at one time, my vision of fulfillment, but I’ve since grown in my promise as a person, and so a new and fresh vision is desirable.

My current path of fulfillment would look and feel very different if I clung to my old vision of fulfillment. With a fresh vision for the fulfillment of my promise, I dare say that I can begin to blaze a new path of possibility.

Your Vision of Fulfillment

Your vision of fulfillment is your vision of the fulfillment of your promise.

Your vision of the fulfillment of your promise is a work in progress, but in the moment that you contemplate it, it is complete just the way it is.

An effective vision of your fulfillment will galvanize you into action.

It will arouse your curiosity. It will stimulate your creative juices. It will excite your sense of possibility.

An effective vision of your fulfillment compels you to define and refine your vision ever more clearly, which is an essential part of your path.

In a moment, I will give you some tips on how to generate a vision of the fulfillment of your promise.

But first, what is your promise?

Your promise is simply this: a fertile ground for your expectation of success or excellence.

Just as flowers, plants, bushes, and trees require fertile ground for them to grow and flourish, so too does your promise require fertile ground for it to grow and flourish.

Such fertility takes into account the ways in which you behave, perform, and improve for the sake of success, and the ways in which you commit yourself for the sake of excellence.

Your Fertile Ground

A fertile ground for your expectation of success or excellence is made up of five overlapping layers under the surface of your fulfillment:

1) The totality of your health, fitness, and vitality is the most basic layer under fulfillment, upon which all the other layers rest; spending time at the base of your fulfillment means taking time to come to terms with a trauma, healing any wounds that you might have, and resolving any issues from the past; it means doing all that you can to be as healthy, fit, and vital as you can

2) The viability of your boundaries and standards is your next, higher layer under fulfillment, upon which the next three layers rest; spending time in this layer means establishing strong yet flexible boundaries for your person, as well as getting clear about your standards of propriety, success, and excellence. Doing so will make it that much easier for you to satisfy your needs and fulfill your desires in a consistent and timely manner

3) The maturity of your motivation and responsibility is the next, higher layer under fulfillment upon which the next two layers rest; to spend time in this layer means building a stable platform for striking a fair balance between freedom and responsibility: having the freedom to be yourself, being fully responsible for yourself, contributing to a cause beyond yourself, while curbing any tendency you might have to blame and/or shame others for your trials, troubles, and tribulations

4) The visibility of your intention to trust and respect others is the next, higher layer under fulfillment upon which the final layer rests; to spend time in this layer means improving or expanding your network of relationships so that you can find out who you are and what you’re capable of being, having, and doing in a wide variety of situations

5) The integrity of your commitment to clarify and live up to your values is the highest layer under fulfillment, and rests on all previous layers; to spend time and effort in this layer means focusing on what you do well so that you can discover what excites you most; it also means living your passion and your purpose so that you can fully realize what really and truly matters to you

Continuity and Legacy

As you might have guessed, these layers are contextual, which means that it might be appropriate for you to spend some time at the highest layer while knowing that you still need to spend some time at one or more of the lower layers.

For example, you might still need to deal with a trauma or heal a wound from the past even as you attempt to clarify what really matters to you.

These layers also overlap. So, for example, the more healing that you do at the base of your fulfillment, the easier it will be for you to keep your personal boundaries intact and to live up to your personal standards.

Once you get a firm handle on each and every one of these layers, and get a sense of completion with them, you’re well on your way to reaching the pinnacle of your fulfillment.

The pinnacle of your fulfillment has two related interpretations:

1) Continuity: when you no longer need to consciously cultivate who and what you are in relation to others, you can at last reap the rewards of having secured the five layers under fulfillment; the cultivation and enhancement of your life continues, but in ways that feel easy, natural, and spontaneous to you

2) Legacy: your conscious attention is placed on developing a lasting legacy for others to engage or enjoy after you die; it might be a material legacy for family or friends (e.g., an estate) or for the public at large (e.g. a trust fund), or it can be a spiritual legacy, which might include private letters to loved ones, memoirs, a published book, or a collection of works

It might be argued that leaving a lasting legacy is not necessary for you to enjoy the pinnacle of your fulfillment through continuity.

Generate Your Vision

Here is how to generate a vision of the fulfillment of your promise:

You do so with a declaration.

You declare your intention that you will fulfill your promise in this life.

This declaration takes account of the five layers under fulfillment with a view towards achieving continuity and/or leaving a lasting legacy.

So, for example, with the first layer that underlies your fulfillment, you might declare: “To be (or become) healthy, fit, and vital, I will […], so that I might […]”.

I can help you to structure your declaration for every layer, but before I do, I’d like to call your attention to four important caveats.

The allure of reclusivity: you might be tempted to do this on your own, without input, assistance, or support from others, but given the contextual nature of these layers under fulfillment, this is not recommended except for those who are blessed with total health, fitness, and vitality – but then, those who enjoy total health, fitness, and vitality are likely those who have already relied on the input, assistance, or support of others.

The allure of preclusivity: you might be tempted to screen out certain undesirable elements from your past, such as unresolved issues, incompletions, wounds, or traumas, or screen out aspects of your life where you feel stuck, unworthy, or incapable, but again, given the contextual nature of the layers that support your fulfillment, unfinished business will, in all likelihood, serve only to sabotage or undermine your success in other areas of your life.

The allure of inclusivity: because your relationships are so important to the fulfillment of your promise, you might be tempted to please and placate everyone you meet, regardless of the effect that this might have on your willingness and ability to fulfill your promise. While this might serve to safeguard, improve, or expand your network of relationships, it might also prevent you from cultivating your integrity.

The allure of exclusivity: because the pursuit of excellence is important to you, you might be tempted to gain your integrity by becoming exclusive in your interests and with your relationships. While this might serve to bring you laser focus, it might also restrict the scope of your interests or limit your influence with others. Your influence in the world itself might be smaller than you like and so might your legacy. The feeling of continuity with your fulfillment might not suffer too much, but your ability to leave a lasting legacy could be compromised.

These four caveats, if ignored, will limit the scope of your efforts to generate and cultivate a vision of the fulfillment of your promise.

In my next post, I will provide a template to help you structure your declaration, to generate a vision of the fulfillment of your promise.


BriteLite August 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Although your outline on the basis of personal fulfillment is a bit sketchy, I like the way you explore the meaning of personal fulfillment in this post. Although I might not use some of your terms in everyday conversations, I can appreciate the value of your orderly presentation. If anything, it’s gotten me to think more deeply about my own personal fulfillment.

Christopher Lovejoy August 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm

I’m glad you derived some value from this post. I’ve fulfilled my intention if I can get a reader to think more deeply about this subject.

I do agree that my outline could use some fleshing out, which is something I intend to do in future. Some of the terms that I’ve used might seem a bit formal or esoteric, but until I find more expressive or articulate terms, I’ll feel compelled to keep them.

Insight Hunter August 10, 2010 at 5:57 pm

I agree with BriteLite’s comments, not the easiest post to follow but the idea is challenging and interesting.

If I may, I’d like to express my own thoughts on how to achieve fulfillment.

When I think of trying to be fulfilled, I try to find joy in four various areas of life which I categorize as Relationships; Work you generally like; Recreation, or hobbies and activities you find fun; and some sense or Purpose and meaning. Relationships are subdivided into spouse/life partner, acquaintances, family, friends. The other categories could be further divided also. If you are doing well in all the categories, you should be fulfilled and living a very happy life. If one was to make their Vision only one particular thing, it probably will not be as rewarding as a balance over the different elements over one’s life.

Speaking pragmatically, things can stagnate in each area. Work is okay and somewhat interesting, but might not be as passionate as one thinks it could be, but one might fear making a change. Relationships might not be as exciting or connecting as they once were, but you still get along and have a good time together. A lot of times, relationships have it limits given two people, so it is hard to improve in this category. You could find new people, but that takes some work, and there is awkwardness and disconnection. Hobbies and interests can get old and it can take awhile before you find a new one that excites you, and it probably does not last enough. Finding passionate and meaningful is one of the universal challenges of life.

It is important to know yourself well enough to be quite certain that success in these areas will make you happy. You don’t want to work so hard to succeed at finding the perfect spouse or perfect job and then realize that that is not going to make you happy. You should know what will make you happy and not think it will make you happy. If you don’t know, then at least be honest with yourself and think of what successes are likely to make you more content.

Next would be to develop a plan to get what you wish for: the dream job, the volunteer work that you think would be fulfilling, etc. The plan should be efficient. Action and persistence follows. One has to try continuously to succeed with his or her effective plan and adjust for setbacks as needed.

Christopher Lovejoy August 11, 2010 at 9:26 am

Hi Insight, I find that your take on fulfillment provides some effective stimulus for my own perspective.

Most centrally, I am the author of my own experience of reality, which implies that I’m as happy and as fulfilled as I wish to be. With persistent gratitude, I can have whatever I wish, whenever, wherever, and with whomever I wish, and when I have the integrity to follow my highest excitement, not just periodically, but moment by moment, then there are no limits to what I can be, have, do, or become. If you resist what I’ve said here, it might be because your beliefs limit your vision of what is possible for you. Or it might be because you’ve been conditioned, compromised, or damaged in some way. If so, then it’s all too easy to settle for less than your best.

You’ve likely heard of those who seem to have it all, and yet, below the surface, are unhappy and unfulfilled. Perhaps all they need is a little motivation to get them going again, or a little stimulation to do one thing differently with their lives, or a little vacation time to give them some much needed rest and relaxation. But then, perhaps what they most need is a complete overhaul of what they think they need and want to be happy and fulfilled again. Without knowing themselves well enough, and without being honest and transparent enough with who they are, and without the intention to be happy and fulfilled, they’d likely be unable to decide what to do.

A pragmatic approach to fulfillment is useful but limited in its scope. Usefulness informs, but does little or nothing to inspire. A vision of the fulfillment of your promise with a cultivated sense of possibility, if formulated in harmony with who you really are, can and will inspire you to follow a path of fulfillment to realize your best self.

Incidentally, if all you do is try, then that is what you’ll attract into your experience: more trying, which leads to even more trying. This isn’t fulfilling.

Insight Hunter August 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I think you are coming from an idealistic approach to fulfillment where I am more focussed on the pragmatic side of it. I think a useful distinction to be made here is external success. If you need such to be fulfilled, a pragmatic approach is probably best. If it is not needed and all the successes are internal, then pragmatism doesn’t matter as much.

However, in my experience, you cannot live in a bubble. You need successful relationships, a job you like, etc. to be happy and fulfilled. A completely internal, spiritual, mental life will not work for most. Thus, external successes are needed. There is an effective way to get such, and following your highest excitement, moment by moment, will not likely lead to it.

Inspiration IS important as it will lead to motivation and hopefully consistent action, but it must be balanced with planning and goal setting. Also, inspiration will dim if you are not growing and getting closer to the things you want.

Finally, you can be inspired using a realistic approach. If your dream is to be a major motion film director, that is inspiring, but your short term goals should be modest, like making a film and getting people to see it. With small successes you can set new goals as new opportunities present themselves, and with some luck and lots of hard work, you might ultimately succeed in your dream.

Christopher Lovejoy August 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Hi Insight, I see no dichotomy between the ideal and the pragmatic. Both have their place in a life lived well.

I agree with you that a useful distinction can be made between internal and external success. One need not lead to the other. Nor need one imply the other. But I must take issue with your assumption that only a pragmatic approach works with external success. A well-integrated approach – ideal and pragmatic – also works.

So, yes, indeed, you can try to live in a bubble with ideals only, but it will only get you so far. But, again, if you integrate a pragmatic attitude with your ideals, then it’s likely you’ll be able to follow your bliss, your passion, your purpose, and your inspiration in keeping with a pragmatic approach to fulfilling your objectives.

I suppose the only remaining question is do you look for your inspiration in a pragmatic approach to fulfilling your life (like yourself) or do you look for a pragmatic approach as you follow your inspiration to fulfill your life (like I do)? Which is better? More powerful? More fulfilling? These are interesting questions to be sure.

Insight Hunter August 13, 2010 at 12:16 am

I think we are on the same page here: idealistic dreams and pragmatic action. Dreams can be idealistic, even impossible, but your expectations of those dreams coming true shouldn’t be. The amateur film maker should not think he or she is destined to be a gigantic success within a year. Actions should be pragmatic in most cases, unless success in the goal is subjective. Idealistic action might help the person psychologically (example, buying the best and most expensive equipment to make his or her first film which he or she believe they can afford because he or she will be a success), but pragmatic action (buying a cheap used camera) is most likely to lead to success.

One can use a pragmatic approach to find inspiration, or the goals that will most likely fulfill you. It might use a thought exercise where you list the times when you were most inspired and most passionate. Could you possibly feel that today? What circumstances would be necessary for you to experience that. The steps of such an exercise may help you focus your thoughts and show you what you truly want. This is probably better than stream of consciousness thinking, or not thinking about it at all, and just waiting for inspiration and passion to come along. So out of practical thoughts could come very idealistic dreams.

This is definitely my approach to fulfillment. I might have the ideal of infinite connection and complete intimacy in my relationships, but I don’t think it will really happen, and don’t expect it to. My actions are reasonable: talk about things you have in common and try to have a good conversation. My expectation will be that we’ll have an interesting discussion and be good company to one another, and not much more. An idealistic action would be revealing too much about yourself too soon, hoping that this person is someone you can connect with. Such an action is probably not a good idea. So idealistic desire, reasonable expectation, realistic goal, realistic action.

Christopher Lovejoy August 13, 2010 at 10:15 am

Hi Insight, yesterday, I came across an interesting account from someone who realized the home of his dreams with an idealistic but reasonable intention. Essentially, he wasn’t entirely sure he could realize his dream, but he allowed his inspiration to govern his actions towards the completion of his objective. In other words, his pragmatic action played second fiddle to his inspiration.

His story provides an excellent example of ideal and practice working together, with inspiration from the ideal taking the lead.

In light of this story, I think you would do well to re-consider and re-assess your emphasis on pragmatic action.

Insight Hunter August 13, 2010 at 2:16 pm

This person actually had a practical and efficient plan and executed it. It might have been higher risk than most people could tolerate, but he had the best plan for that high risk endeavour to come to fruition, and it did.

I sense you are sympathetic to ideas such as visualization or desire will largely or by itself lead to success, and I do not think that that is really the case. Wishing, desiring, visualizing, and following your intuition will not succeed as often as a well laid-out plan.

Granted, some people just get lucky and success falls in their lap.

Also not all plans are in the forefront of consciousness. In the relationship example above, what I was doing was subconscious, and I never sat down and wrote out a plan for it.

That said, people, of course, can follow their hearts. It just might not be the best way in our cause and effect world to get what you desire.

Christopher Lovejoy August 13, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Hi Insight, you’re still missing a critical piece of the puzzle. Your inspiration to realize a desire can take the lead in getting you from idea to ideal. After you set your intention, the visualization of your desire sets up an expectation, which prompts you to take action and (possibly) to form a plan to execute. There will, of course, be a time buffer between your intention and the realization of your desire. For Mr. Self Development, his plan evolved out of his intention, visualization, expectation, and execution. He took action in the wake of his expectation, which served as his point of focus for getting what he felt he needed to realize his desire, e.g., a plan, resources, money, support. He allowed all of this to appear as he went along, and allowed it to appear quickly, as if from nowhere. His inspiration drove his execution, and his successes with the execution inspired him further.

tim September 6, 2010 at 7:15 pm

hi Christopher

I enjoyed this article and particularly liked the framework you created. I personally found it easy to follow.

have you read Steve Pavlina’s book? he also has an interesting framework.


Christopher Lovejoy September 6, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Hi Tim, thanks for dropping by. I’m glad you like the framework I created. I’ve been closely following Steve Pavlina’s blog for many, many months, but have yet to read his book. I am, however, familiar with the structure of his approach. Very interesting work.

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