Are You Chasing Happiness or Fulfillment?

How many of us yearn to be truly happy in life?

I would guess pretty much all of us! It’s a noble and aspirational pursuit.

But are we chasing happiness? Not sure what I mean when I say that?

Well, do we feel as though we are going after a moving target? For instance, do you hear yourself saying any of these things: ‘once I get this, or once I have that, or once I achieve this goal I will be happy’?

Again, we should all be able to have our moments of happiness, but I want to challenge the notion of whether or not happiness is worth chasing

Today’s post was really inspired by a podcast I listened to from Ed Mylett entitled, The Pathway to Fulfillment where he broke down the differences between happiness and fulfillment, as well as what we should really focus on pursuing in our lives.

After reflecting on the content of the podcast, I wanted to share some of my key takeaways. So let’s take a few minutes and breakdown how we should tackle the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment.

The Truth & Trap of Happiness

We all want to be happy in life… As we think back to some of our happiest times, I have no doubt we are flooded with great memories of family, friends, trips, accomplishments and adventures. Therefore it should be no surprise that we yearn for more happy moments and have a desire to be happy all the time.

It almost becomes a destination to reach. But is it?

Do we ever find ourselves thinking through all the things we could or should change so that we can be happy? But is that possible? I would argue it’s not…

Let’s talk about some of the truths of happiness…

Happiness is conditional – As much as I would love for it to be true, we cannot exist in a constant state of happiness forever. Each individual’s happiness is contingent on something happening that is meaningful, desirable and positive to them. Therefore, if that condition is not met, then they will find themselves unhappy or neutral. This isn’t a bad thing as it creates a drive and motivation to meet that condition again and again (as long as the conditions we are trying to meet are meaningful and lasting).

Happiness is temporary – we all have great moments that make us happy. Whether we achieve a goal, buy something we’ve been wanting for a long time, have a great time with family and friends, hit an exciting life milestone, or cross something off a bucket list, there is a good chance we will experience a surge of happiness. But does it last for long? Probably not. This also isn’t a bad thing, as it nudges us to look for more happy experiences.

Happiness requires unhappiness – Much like we wouldn’t know good without bad, we also wouldn’t know or appreciate happiness without unhappiness. I hope this doesn’t come off as a buzzkill, as it is not meant to be. Nor does it need to be a balance that must be maintained (i.e. we don’t need to have an unhappy event follow a happy event). This is simply a gut check and reminder that the unhappy (or neutral) moments in life create the foundation and context for us to pursue, find, appreciate and celebrate the happy moments.

The happiness trap – So now that we’ve discussed some of these concepts around happiness, how can the pursuit of happiness become a trap?

Well, simply put, if we chase happiness and only happiness, then we will be chasing something that simply cannot be caught. We will be chasing something that is fleeting, conditional and temporary.

Ever hear the term, ‘money doesn’t buy happiness‘? I would argue, as Ed Mylett does in his podcast, that it actually does buy happiness! Think of the last time you bought yourself that new car you always wanted, or a nice dress, electronic gadget or house… did you feel a sense of happiness? I bet you did! And that’s great!

But did it last?

It rarely does.

We normalize following these events. The car, dress or gadget gradually becomes part of your normal. The trap is immediately looking to buy the next thing or go after the next quick fix to regain that dopamine hit and find a new surge of happiness without considering the bigger picture of life.

So what do we do instead?

Well, I recommend pursing fulfillment.

The Path to Fulfillment

So what exactly is fulfillment? Dictionary.com defines it as:

The achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted.

While accurate, this definition doesn’t quite do it enough justice.

For me, fulfillment is the state of being who you are meant to be and doing what you are meant to do in alignment with your life’s purpose.

Yes, I realize that this is quite vague, and to an extent it needs to be as fulfillment is something uniquely different for all of us.

Ed Mylett’s podcast digs into the idea that fulfillment is our ultimate destination in life, and that the path to fulfillment can be created when people define their purpose by leveraging their unique gifts and passions in a way that can benefit others.

Think about the joy you felt the last time you did something that benefited someone else. How good did that feel in the moment and long after? What emotions did you feel? I doubt they were on the same level as the happiness you felt when you bought something for yourself. I would bet that doing something positive for someone else filled you up on a much higher level – and likely made you happy in the process!

So how can we create more fulfilling moments in our life?

Well, it’s starts by focusing on being… Based on the podcast, being 10 things specifically. So let’s check them out:

10 Ways of Being to Bring More Fulfilling Emotions:

1) Be Unique – Embrace the unique combination of gifts and strengths that you’ve been given. The greatest disservice we can do to ourselves and others is opting for conformity over our uniqueness. Don’t just be another face in the crowd.

2) Be Love – Smile more, laugh more; show your appreciation and love for those in your life.

3) Be Truth – Don’t hide who you are and what you stand for out of fear of people not accepting your truth. A key component of the path to fulfillment is walking that path as your true and authentic self.

4) Be Kind – It should go without saying, but the world needs more kindness. Be kind to others and begin to inspire more kindness all around you.

5) Be Beautiful – Actually accept that you are good enough and are an incredible gift to this world by simply being you. Stop comparing yourself against the arbitrary measurements of society.

6) Be Moving – Be physically active and move your body. And if you don’t believe me, just remember:

“I really regret that workout”

– said no one ever

7) Be Growing – If you aren’t growing, you’re dying. Our path to fulfillment requires that we continue to become a better version of ourselves. Be a better member of your organization, team and community. Be a better parent, sibling or child. There is always room for improvement in some area of your life.

8) Be Playful – Unleash your inner child and allow yourself to have fun, dream big, and let your imagination run wild. While growing up, the day suddenly came when you stopped playing… let today be the day you start playing again!

9) Be Forgiving – Forgive those who hurt you in the past – it’s the only way you will be free of it and can focus on a brighter future.

“As I walked out the door towards the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” – Nelson Mandela

10) Be Courageous/ Bold – Do the things you are afraid of, as courage is taking action in the presence of fear. It creates adventure, excitement and growth. How can you be more bold and courageous each and every day?

As I wrap up for today, I would ask that we all reflect on what we are chasing in life.

Are we going after the next quick happiness fix? Are we pursing a series of conditions that we believe will make us happy all the time?

Or are we pursing a life of purpose and passion? Are we on the road to our personal fulfillment? Are we sharing our gifts and strengths with the world in the service of others?

To me, the best thing about the conversation of happiness and fulfillment is that it isn’t an either / or conversation… We don’t have to make the choice to pursue happiness or fulfillment to the neglect of the other. We can have both, and I encourage you to prioritize your path towards your version of fulfillment as it will create more lasting moments and emotions of happiness along the way.

If you haven’t already clicked on the link above for Ed Mylett’s podcast, I highly recommend you listen. It will be well worth your time and inspire you like it did me.

I’ll see you out there on the road to fulfillment!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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