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Fulfillment and Contentment and What Often Passes for It

Fulfillment touches a number of bases on its way around.  To experience its bliss, you must first do or anticipate an event or an outcome.  Something has to start the ball rolling for fulfillment to score.  You can’t just meander around the park expecting that you will find fulfillment.  First, you must find out what it is, and what it is not.  A real sense of fulfillment is conceptual; it is a feeling that elevates your awareness.   Fulfillment is not something that can be found in earning a million dollars or in scoring the winning run.  Those are certainly achievements or measures of performance. They can bestow sense of joy and pleasure, but these soon become memories.  They are not enduring measures or indicators of fulfillment.  It is easy to substitute individual gratification for fulfillment; however it is not the same thing.

Perhaps the road to fulfillment is a parallel journey and not woven together with career progress or in shooting scratch golf.  It may borrow from or use those measures, but fulfillment isn’t something that you gain by beating someone to the goal.  In fact, it may come to you by not beating someone else to the goal.

It is imperative to have your own definition of fulfillment and to understand that fulfillment must serve a higher purpose.  “This above all: to thine own self be true…” Shakespeare’s quote can be cliché, but it speaks to the heart of the concept.  If you are not genuine to what truly matters and what truly should matter to you and to others, the corporeal elements of life will appear to lead to fulfillment – and you will be deceived.

It is not your balance sheet that brings true balance to your life.  You cannot achieve fulfillment through expedience.  Doing the right thing, making a difference to yourself and to others can balance your life and lead you to real and sustainable happiness.  Learn to separate “real happiness” from the delight or exhilaration that is associated with happy feelings of personal achievement.  It cannot be said often enough that people who help and serve others are the happiest.

Research indicates that jobs that make people the happiest typically do not make you rich.  The clergy, firefighters, special education teachers, authors, physical therapists and artists are generally the most fulfilled and happiest.

Winning and losing are opposite sides of the same coin, and that narrow margin defines a good versus a bad outcome.  We look up to and venerate the winners and we castigate and forget those who didn’t.  Tiger Woods stood at the gateway of world fame and fortune two years ago.  Today, he is just a good golfer.  Tiger has arguably done a lot of good.  He is a sports inspiration to generations in a game that personifies character and conduct.  There is a certain irony in the circumstances that tumbled him from the pinnacle of sports icon-ism. Golf is more than just good sportsmanship; it is a microcosm of doing the right thing regardless if anyone is watching.  Your standard of conduct is your own.   Play a few rounds of golf with someone and you will learn a lot about their character.

Let’s consider Tiger as an example.  Is he happy?  Does he appear to be happy?  Perhaps those are the same question though the distinction is important.  Is he happy?  Although he is a private person regarding his personal life, most of the viewing public would observe that he probably isn’t.  His reputation and his marriage were wrecked along with his Cadillac SUV.  Is he happy?  If you follow golf and his career, you would say definitely not.  He won’t be happy until he is again winning golf tournaments.  And in the scheme of things, of life, does it really matter who wins golf tournaments?  Except for the bragging rights, I cannot imagine that it does.

And what of the Tiger Woods Foundation – does it do good, does it bring him fulfillment?  Most of us are casual observers and not insiders and so we can only guess.  The Foundation’s sponsors and partners all provide funding for the Foundation’s work.  Is the Foundation an expression of fulfillment for Tiger or is it perfunctory?  I don’t have an opinion, but the question hangs in the air like fog that we hope will burn off so that the sun can make an appearance.  Is this PR for Tiger or is it a part of his life’s work?  The point here is that if it is primarily public relations then it may never bring Tiger fulfillment.  It may also be ironic that the positive impact that it has on recipients of the Foundation’s programs may lead them to fulfillment and indeed inspire them to help create it for others.

This example is not intended as a commentary upon the personal circumstances regarding his life and career as a sports personality.  It is an example of what is or should be most important in life.  A sense of achievement and success in a career does not bring with it fulfillment.  Fulfillment comes from the inner feelings of contentment and happiness in doing things that bring gratification, not personal indulgence.  Fulfillment is easy to attain and it may also be a daily challenge.

It doesn’t matter how much you’ve earned, how many personal achievements that you have amassed or how successful you appear to others.  It is about integrity and credibility.  It is about extending a hand to others or in being there for them.  It is like friendship and loving your life and the elements within it.

Fulfillment won’t probably come in one grand gesture like giving away a fortune.  It will come from smaller gestures and from a sense of doing good and doing the right thing when opportunity is presented to you.  It will come when you understand that winning and losing may be opposite sides of the same coin, but only one side can face up.

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