How to be Fulfilled
As part of a series on mental health for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, I wrote this article for Spotlight on the importance of fulfilment for actors, and how we can get to the heart of this feeling with clarity.
As I sit down to write this article, I realise that we are approaching the Summer Solstice. I am reminded that everything in nature happens without effort: the seasons, new life, growth, dying away. Nature doesn’t have to think about when it is time to let go in autumn or bud and blossom in spring. However, whilst nature recognises that change is the only constant, humans often need a tremendous amount of courage and commitment to do the same.
What is fulfilment?
Think about your own life for a moment. What is your vision of a really fulfilling life? What would that be like? Whatever answer comes to mind, notice that the question takes you deeper than simply asking, “What do you want?” This greater depth is one of the reasons why fulfilment is such a key element of living a happy life.
As a Co-Active® coach, my job is to support clients to make changes in their lives. Clients rarely come to me specifically saying that they want a more fulfilling life. I’m more likely to hear, “I want higher-paid work, more interesting opportunities, more holidays, a better work/life balance…” We spend much of our lives looking at what we have - and what we don’t have - and then looking for something to fill the gap. Something that might satisfy our hunger for fulfilment.
“If only I had a better agent…if only my face was more symmetrical…if only casting directors didn’t always call in the same people…if only the director would let me do it my way…” Sound familiar? And yet, when we have these things, the satisfaction or fulfilment is often momentary.
Being versus having
Think about something you really wanted to have. Focus on that moment of elation when you acquired it and then how quickly the glow began to fade. As long as we continue to look for ways to have a fulfilling life we are likely to be temporarily filled and yearning for more.
In Co-Active® coaching, we look at fulfilment through a different lens. We ask clients what would it take to be fulfilled? It’s a subtle difference but it unlocks enormous possibility. One of the easiest and simplest ways to put this into practice is to turn the clock back to the last time you felt fully alive. A time when your spine, arms and fingertips were tingling with excitement, a time when you didn’t care what anyone thought of you. And now ask yourself: where were you? What were you doing? Who was with you? What was your impact on them? When we connect to this aliveness, we feel a sense of wholeness and satisfaction, as well as a feeling of rightness and harmony. It is an experience of being complete.
Values play a key part in guiding us along the decision path of our lives. Honouring our values (i.e. what is most important to us) is inherently fulfilling, even when it is hard. For example, if loyalty is one of your values, you may find there are times when you suffer discomfort because a director with whom you had been nurturing a relationship doesn’t call you in for an audition. However, once the discomfort has passed, a sense of integrity and congruency with that value will remain.
When our values are not honoured we feel internal tension or dissonance. We are very good at being flexible and resilient, but there is always a price to pay for doing what we feel we’re expected to do rather than putting our own values into practice. So the next time you are in a situation that has a strong impact (positive or negative) on you, start to look at how your values show up and ask yourself: what values do I sometimes neglect? Which are the values I will not compromise? And, what is the price I will pay for not honouring that value?
Fulfilment changes over time
Fulfilment is fluid and evolving. What you found fulfilling at twenty-one is unlikely to be fulfilling at forty-five. You may have been driven to find the perfect creative opportunities in lieu of financial stability, but now more money would lead to honouring values such as fun, adventure and peace of mind. Even though fulfilment changes over time, it is always possible for you to live a fulfilling life today, right where you are, even as you are making plans to transform and evolve.
Honouring who we are can mean making tough choices. However, I believe that fulfilment is worth the challenge. I know that people want to say they went after their dreams and they fulfilled their purpose in their own unique way. To quote the brilliant Brené Brown: “However afraid we are of change, the question that we must ultimately answer is this: what’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?”