Most people refer to success in our culture only as what you achieve. This is a big problem. Either we redefine what success in life means in life or we expand our discussion to include fulfillment. In this post, I’m going to argue that we need to redefine our definition of a successful life.
Many of the things I discuss are based on ideas that Tony Robbins has shared through various mediums recently. This blog post is my understanding of these ideas.
Tony says that to have an extraordinary life, or what I’m calling here a successful life, you need two key ingredients. You need the science of achievement and the art of fulfillment. Achievement without fulfillment is the ultimate failure. Accomplishment alone does not equal joy and it does not give you a sense of meaning.
One example is how often you hear of wealthy people being very unhappy. Excess income does not equal fulfillment. Many studies have shown how once you have enough income for a comfortable life by world standards, additional income does not bring more joy and happiness.
Science of Achievement
Achievements are what go on your resume though these things may or may not make you happy. They are mileposts along the way where we often get recognition. It’s the college degree, the promotion, or financial wealth. These things are important.
Tony calls it the science of achievement because these have a prescriptive action that are well-known on how to achieve these things. Do you want to lose weight? There’s a body of science on how do that. Do you want to build wealth? There’s a body of science on how to do that. Do you want to graduate from college? There’s a body of science on how to do that.
One common thread on achievements is that the focus is primarily on the self. This will ultimately leave you hollow unless you couple it with fulfillment.
What is a great resume if you have no fulfillment? If you have no joy or appreciation?
Art of Fulfillment
Fulfillment is happiness or satisfaction as a result of fully developing our ability or character. It is different for everyone, just like art. What makes me happy might not make you happy. There is no science or prescription for these things. This requires a deep personal exploration to figure it out.
Fulfillment is about growth and developing our full potential. Growth is what gives us something to give to others. We add value to ourselves so that we may add value to others.
When you hear about what older folks would change if they could go back and do things again, few say they would spend more time working. Many would say they would have worked less and spent more time with those they loved. I understand this to be less of a focus on achievement activities and more on fulfillment.
When you hear people speak of others at their funeral, you rarely hear just a list of achievements. You hear about their character: their passion and patience, their love and kindness. You hear about what made them happy.
Fulfillment is not a focus on ourselves, but more about how we bring our best so we can add value to those around us.
I’m proud of the things in my life that I’ve achieved. I’ve got a really good job, a wonderful house in an incredible neighborhood, and money in the bank. I have a graduate degree, a professional certification, and recently have lost 10% of my body weight.
But those things by themselves don’t bring me deep, intense joy and fulfillment. It’s when I get to use those skills and abilities to help solve a clients problem. Or give an employee the right career direction. It’s when I’ve invested in my body and mind through exercise, diet, and sleep so that I can still have energy and focus to spend quality time with my children each evening after work. That’s fulfilling.
While it is easier and more comfortable to focus on our achievements, a truly successful life is built on following the path of fulfillment and achieving some things along the way.