I oftentimes wonder, what is it truly triggers the sense of contentment. What is it that pulls at the right strings inside you that gives you that sense of euphoria from simply living? My happiest days are the days that have moments with loved ones, moments for myself, moments that give me the opportunity to completely take in my surroundings and finally, and moments of learning. These small opportunities where I am able to take in all five senses draw me closer to true fulfillment. But what truly is it that keeps that streak of fulfillment alive?
The idea of future fulfillment is one that many can relate to. The crazy thing is that this idea that your future self holds the key to happiness is actually what keeps you from achieving it day to day. The best part about this however, is that it doesn’t take some special circumstance to change this frame of mind or special situation to implement.
I recently read The Book of Joy, which features the conversations between two people from very different backgrounds who were brought together to breakdown the idea of joy and investigate what was the true catalyst that allowed joy to prosper. The two people in question were the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. They believed that,
the three things that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous.1
I’ve found it myself through tougher situations that I have encountered. Recently, I was a bit frustrated with the immigration process and my inability to work or travel. I felt stuck and frustrated with the scenario. My motivation to create was hindered and I wasn’t achieving at the level I wanted to. I was lacking drive. However, when I realized what I was given with this opportunity, rather than what was taken, my whole mindset shifted. Instead of feeling stuck, I felt empowered to work on things and accomplish things that I would never have focused on without this occurring.
When I am accomplishing things I set out to do, I feel fulfilled. When I am fulfilled, I am happier. That common belief that when you are positive and happier, people want to be around you is rooted in the idea of fulfillment. We all have those friends that are able to change the whole mood of a room the second they walk in. They have a glow about them and seem to be able to increase the positive energy in a room without even trying. These people are usually the people who have a higher level of fulfillment in their lives and look at less than ideal situations with a level of hope. For me, this was one of my bigger goals out of this whole situation. I wanted to focus on approaching situations with hope and however big a challenge was, I would keep a positive attitude one situation at a time.
The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu also believed that,
[t]he suffering from a natural disaster we cannot control, but the suffering from our daily disasters we can. We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people.2
Reframing ones state of mind in any given situation is all it takes to turn a less than ideal situation into one of life’s lessons. I know it seems easier said than done but believe me, it isn’t actually that hard to do. There are times when working on a project where I become frustrated and disappointed in the situation. Things aren’t going exactly as planned and things go one of two ways – you either deal with it or quit. Filmmaking is always a game of compromise no matter how much preparation you do. It is imperative that you are able to look at these challenges as part of the creative process and embrace them with a positive attitude or your final work will suffer.
I definitely find that my quality of work degrades when the trust and buy-in on the situation isn’t there. However, when I am able to re-frame, not only does my work improve, so does my mood and the tone of the whole situation and energy of the group. One person can bring a whole team down but one person can also bring a team up!
If fulfillment at work is not possible, for whatever reason, accept the fact that it really won’t change. Focus on finding fulfillment elsewhere in your life. Wake up an hour early and work on those passion projects. Focus on using your energy on what excites you. No sense wasting energy on something you know has no chance of changing. The key in this situation is to acknowledge your situation and if you are able to change it, focus on putting your energy into things that help you excel.
For anyone that is hoping to live a more fulfilled life, whether working as a freelancer or working the 9-5, there are a few basic things you can do to help ensure you set yourself up for success with any situation.
Set strong boundaries
Whether in your personal or professional lives, set boundaries that help control your situation. Don’t turn into the ‘yes’ man. Boundaries are critical to ensure you stay balanced, focused and driving towards success. Be honest with yourself and focus on getting control in a sometimes uncontrollable situation. There is no point of trying to please everyone as you will end up pleasing no one. Be truthful with yourself as to what you can accomplish and ensure that your network understands your bigger picture and the trajectory you are wanting to take with your personal and professional lives.
Don’t let money rule you
You can’t be happy in your work if you let money rule you. It’s truly that simple. Money can be viewed as an energy form and when you give up all your power to it, it will suck you dry. If on the other hand, you can recognize money for what it is, your stress levels will reduce. Money is there to work for you, not the other way around.
Focus on cultivating happiness
Focus on creating experiences that truly make you happy. my happy spot is when I am camping. I know that when I am stressed, all it takes is one trip to the mountains to reground myself. Spend some time breaking down the times you are most happy and think about small ways to sprinkle these moments throughout your day and your week.
Remove the negativity
We all know those people – who just can’t seem to kick the negativity. The unfortunate thing is that these people will bring you down. If you aren’t in a situation where you are able to remove them, set boundaries and pepper these people with your positivity. I know it may be hard but finding ways to either remove or reshape mindsets is critical to ensure you aren’t brought down by others.
Be thankful for the now
Experiencing gratitude on a daily basis is the first step to get a handle of fulfillment. The more you take time to acknowledge with appreciation and thanks what you love about your life, the more you’ll be able to expand those things that bring you joy.
Be willing to take risks and confront your fears
Experiencing happiness throughout your life requires flexibility, openness and adaptability. Being open to new experiences and taking risks are imperative to ensure you are driving towards the life you want. There will be times of discomfort but these are usually great moments of learning.
Develop a support system
Cultivating a powerful support circle and community now can be the difference between being stuck for years in a miserable situation and having new doors fly open just when you need them to. Brian Grazer, co-founder of Imagine Entertainment wrote the book, A Curious Mind, which discusses his curiosity conversations. Through his career, he has used these conversations as a way to cultivate new relationships. His strategy was to try and schedule meetings with as many different people from as many different backgrounds to find out more about them. He believed it was a great way to expand his view of the world and lead him to tell better stories. These conversations also inevitably led to some pretty amazing opportunities that in turn, furthered his career. Meeting new people and learning from others is one of the most impactful things that anyone can access and take advantage of pretty easily.
Lastly, find flow in your life. Start with re-framing less than perfect situations with a positive attitude. At first, it may feel impossible but the full buy-in is critical. Take each situation as a new opportunity and focus on those learning moments. Fulfillment is a powerful thing and by simply taking a few moments for yourself and approaching each situation with hope and anticipation can truly be the thing that changes a bad day into one of your best days!
 (2016) The Book of Joy (p. 49). New York, NY: Avery.
 (2016) The Book of Joy (p. 14). New York, NY: Avery.