Personal Fulfillment

by Christopher Lovejoy on August 6, 2010 · 15 comments

Feeling blissfully aware, I lie outstretched on my back under a tree with my head in my hands, gazing serenely at the leaves gently tossing and twisting in the breeze, while I catch a few rays from the sun.

I am on a small private island in the Domain of Killien, in northern Ontario, Canada, in the middle of nowhere, on 5,000 acres, on a warm, breezy summer afternoon, not far from the main resort.

I have lost all sense of time. Without a care in the world, I reside in a wild kind of heaven, away from the stress and strain of modern day life. I feel good to be here, all alone, following and finding my bliss, letting my mind drift, inviting my soul, relaxing my body, and giving my spirit rest.

With immense gratitude, I sigh a sigh of deep contentment.

My Path, My Vision

Today, I looked up the word “fulfillment,” and found that it carries two essential meanings: execution and completion. I learned that the fulfillment of my person, of my promise, is both (1) an act or process of fulfilling my promise, and (2) a quality or state of being fulfilled in that promise.

In other words, the ways in which I choose to fulfill my promise is my path to fulfillment and the way in which I imagine the quality or state of my being fulfilled in this promise is my vision of fulfillment.

The image that 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 I now find that a new and fresh vision is desirable.

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

My Vision of Fulfillment

My vision of fulfillment is a vision of the fulfillment of my promise, which is a work in progress, and curiously, in the moment in which I contemplate it, it feels complete just the way it is.

An informed, inspired vision of my own fulfillment will galvanize me into action, arousing my curiosity, stimulating my creative juices, exciting my sense of possibility. Such a vision compels me to define and refine my vision ever more clearly, which is an essential part of my path.

In a moment, I will share some tips on how to generate a vision of the fulfillment of your promise, but first, wherein lies your promise? As far as I can see, your promise is simply this: a rich fertile ground upon to walk and meet your aspirations for success in pursuit of excellence.

Just as flowers require fertile ground to grow and flourish, so too does your promise require fertile ground to grow and flourish as you behave, conduct, and improve your presence and performance on the way to meeting and greeting success for the sake of your excellence.

Taking a Walk on Fertile Ground

I like to view the fertile ground for any aspiration of success in view of excellence as being composed of five layers below the surface and in support of the fulfillment of my person and my promise:

Totality: the totality of my health, fitness, and vitality is the most basic layer of fulfillment, upon which all the other layers rest; spending time at the base of fulfillment includes making time for coming to terms with trauma, healing wounds, and resolving issues from the past. In tandem with this housecleaning is being, doing, and having all that I can to be as healthy, fit, and vital as I can.

Viability: the viability of my boundaries and standards is the next, higher layer; spending time at this layer means establishing and maintaining strong yet flexible boundaries, as well as getting clear about my standards of propriety by way of success on the way to excellence. In keeping with my boundaries and my standards, I satisfy my needs and fulfill my desires in a consistent and timely manner.

Maturity: the maturity of responsibility is the next, higher layer; spending time at this layer means building a stable platform from which to strike a fair balance between freedom and responsibility: having the freedom to be myself, to be wholly responsible for myself, contributing to a cause beyond myself, while curbing any tendency I might have to blame and shame the other for any trials and tribulations.

Visibility: the visibility of my intention to trust and respect others is the next, higher layer; spending time at this layer means extending and expanding my network of relationships to find out who I am and what I’m capable of being, having, and doing in a wide variety of situations.

Integrity: the integrity of my commitment to clarify and live up to my values is the highest layer in support of fulfillment, and rests on all previous layers; spending time and effort at this layer means focusing on what I do well so that I can discover what inspires me the most; it also means following my passion in view of my purpose so that I can fully realize what really and truly matters to me.

Continuity and Legacy

These layers are contextual, which means that it might be appropriate 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. So, for example, I might still need to deal with a trauma, heal a wound, or resolve an outstanding issue from the past even as I attempt to clarify what really and truly matters to me.

These layers also overlap. For example, the more healing I do, the easier it will be for me to maintain my boundaries and live up to my standards. Once I get a firm handle on each these layers, and derive a sense of completion from them, I’m well on my way to the pinnacle of fulfillment.

The pinnacle of fulfillment has two related interpretations:

Continuity: when I no longer need to cultivate, calibrate, and concentrate who and what I am in relation to others, I can at last reap the rewards of having secured the layers under the fulfillment of my promise and my person; the cultivation and enhancement of my life continues, but in ways that feel easy, natural, and spontaneous to me. In light of this continuity, I may or may wish to leave a lasting legacy.

Legacy: attention is placed on leaving a lasting legacy for others to enjoy after my death; it might be a material legacy for family or friends (an estate) or for the public at large (a trust fund); it might be a spiritual legacy, like private letters to loved ones, a memoir, a published book, or a collection of works. Leaving a legacy, however, is not necessary to enjoy the pinnacle of fulfillment through continuity.

Generating a Vision of Fulfillment

I generate a vision of fulfillment with a declaration, declaring intentions that I fulfill the promise of my life, whatever this might be. Such declarations rest on the layers of fulfillment with a view towards realizing continuity and/or leaving a lasting legacy. So, for example, with the first layer that underlies fulfillment, I might declare: “To be (or become) healthy, fit, and vital, I will […], so that I might […]”.

In forming and making these declarations, it is wise to keep these caveats in mind:

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

The allure of preclusivity: you might be tempted to screen out undesirable elements from your past, such as unresolved issues, incompletions, wounds, or traumas, or to screen out aspects of your life where you feel stuck, unworthy, or incapable, but again, given the nature of the layers that support fulfillment, unfinished business will likely sabotage or undermine your success in other areas of 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 safeguard, improve, or expand your network of relationships, it might also prevent you from cultivating integrity.

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

These four caveats, if ignored or bypassed, will limit the scope of your efforts to generate and perpetuate a vision of the fulfillment of your promise. In my next post, I provide a template to help structure these declarations, 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 (update: this link is no longer available, as of May 22, 2020) 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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