When you lay out the roadmap for your life and reconcile it back to day to day living, are you setting yourself up for a life lived fully or an uphill struggle peppered with periods of relief? There is a line in Melissa Etheridge’s song “Ain’t it Heavy” that says, “survival is fine but satisfaction is rough”. That is true at least from the standpoint that it takes more conscious intention, planning, and action to lead a satisfying and fulfilling life than it does to simply survive. In our high pressured, crazy busy world we live in, though, is anybody really headed toward fulfillment or are we all just running like hamsters on a wheel grateful for a little relief from the madness now and then?
From my viewpoint, relief is the shortest path to feeling better. It is like putting a band aid on an open wound. It is quick, easy, and you feel better right away. Relief is what we tend to gravitate toward when we’re stressed out, burned out, and can’t take another minute of “this”. It is the short path to feeling like some variation of a human again. We tend to seek relief through alcohol, television, tuning out others, mindless activity of some kind, emotional eating, or some other addictive behavior (shopping, sex, surfing the web, etc.). We feel “better” right away because we escape from our current experience long enough to have a physical and mental release. However, relief is often short-lived because the underlying thing we’re trying to escape doesn’t change (our self-esteem, career situation, shitty relationship, crippling debt, etc.). While relief can occasionally feel like fun and is often necessary in small doses, it is never the path to long-term happiness or fulfillment.
That brings me to satisfaction. Satisfaction is pretty good. It is a feeling of contentment. Your needs are being met and you’re free of cravings and addictive behavior. You’re feeling good about your life and yourself. You don’t have that burning desire to seek relief. On the flip side, though, you’re not feeling 100% fulfilled. While you are content and your physical and emotional needs are being met, that pizzazz is missing and you may have a general low grade feeling that something is missing. It is easy to become complacent if you feel satisfied even though your life may be lacking the real passion you desire.
Fulfillment is the grand daddy of feelings. It is that great big, warm-fuzzy AHHHHHH. You are not only satisfied but you are feeling that your life’s activities are aligned with your deepest beliefs and values. What you are actually doing and what you feel called to do and are passionate about are in synch. You are energized and jazzed up about your purpose here on the planet and the actions you are taking to make your vision for your life and the world a reality. Fulfillment is the toy prize inside, ours for the taking.
So, what leaves most of us stuck in the struggle — relief — struggle — relief pattern? I compare it to getting on an amusement park ride that we thought we’d like, finding out we really don’t like it and simply staying on it indefinitely because no one told us there were other, equally “OK” rides in the park. We are taught from a young age that toil, hard work, and struggle were the way to success. If struggle were the ticket to happiness, we’d all be absurdly happy! Not to mention, staying on the same path and seeking occasional bouts of relief in the form of an expensive dinner or vacation seems much easier than stepping back and evaluating our life and business. The problem with this approach, however, is that if you keep it up long enough without taking stock of what you truly value in life, you can end up rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic for the rest of your life.
Have you been stuck in the struggle—relief cycle so long that you’re not so sure what your true values are? Contact me to get unstuck.