What is a fulfilled life?
When considering ‘my story’ that I created before starting this blog, I look back to a year ago and see a totally different person. A year ago I was about to embark on a roller coaster ride that would change my world forever. I was about to understand what living a fulfilling life meant.
Last year I decided the road I was on wasn’t working for me. After eight years of growing three companies and making work central to my life, I realised I was missing the point of life. As I mentioned to my friends 9 year old daughter yesterday, my problem was that I made money my main driver rather than considering living a fulfilled life. I mistakenly thought that money would solve all problems and make life perfect.
You see, I thought that life was about becoming successful and successful meant making loads of money so that I could afford anything I wanted. If I had anything I wanted, life would be blissful and I could sit back and be happy. In hindsight, I wish I ignored society and instead started off with asking myself what would make a fulfilled life. I also wish that I realised that life was about creating a new life over and over rather than obtaining some sort of idealised perfection (that simply doesn’t exist).
Money doesn’t make you fulfilled nor does poverty. And having a fulfilled life doesn’t happen by accident. You first need to decide that you want a fulfilling life. You then need to remove any past baggage that tells you that you don’t deserve fulfilling life. And while removing the baggage, you can get started at actively creating your fulfilling life.
When I talk about baggage, I specifically mean past trauma’s or events that happened in your life that still control you. For example, my upbringing caused me to fear the world. I thought the world was a very dangerous and unsafe place. I feared doing anything that would cause me to be noticed. With that kind of belief system I was filled with massive amounts of stress. Every time I pushed myself to do something new the anxiety was almost unbearable. That’s baggage – as I was trying to fly and make something of my life I had all these bags that were keeping me grounded.
Baggage includes outdated beliefs that you still hold as true, emotionally charged memories of the past that you play over and over and fears about anything or everything in life.
What does it mean to create a fulfilled life?
Living a fulfilling life means that I consciously pay attention to what makes me buzz. Throughout the day I check in with myself and say, ‘hey – do I enjoy what I’m doing right now?’ and if I say ‘yes’ it helps me to confirm I’m going in the right direction. I take the time to feel how I’m feeling – to consciously pay attention to my emotions and the feeling that are taking place in my body. The more I pay attention to how I feel the more I seem to feel better and better. The more I just feel and listen to my body, the more clues I get about what makes me feel fulfilled with life.
In the past I was given loads of clues but I didn’t know how to feel them or interpret their meaning. I would get stomach aches, hunched shoulders, a fast heart beat and downward spiralling thought patterns. I thought these feelings of stress where caused to me by outside influences (family, co-workers, etc) but I was so wrong. These effects where simply telling me that I was going against my flow. My river was heading east yet my mind was ignoring it and trying to go west. I was going in the opposite direction from living a fulfilling life.
It seems to be a mixture of contemplation and feeling that are helping me to enjoy my journey more and more. I’ve stopped myself from being too analytical and logical and have started to pay more attention to how my body feels.
It’s as if I’ve realised how powerful my conscious brain is and I’ve finally put it to work for me rather than undervaluing it’s power and nature. I now use my brain and feelings together to constantly create and recreate new situations and opportunities for me to feel more and more fulfilled. And the great thing about this new mind-set is that I now understand that perfection is not the goal.
The goal of life is to consciously create a more and more fulfilling life while enjoying where you are now. To be grateful and love life now while contemplating what your next expression might be.
Living a fulfilling life is not about achieving something and then being able to sit back and relax. Or…thinking that when I get XYZ I’ll be happy. There is no end point or finish line while you’re living life – there are only new and more fulfilling ways to express yourself. It’s amazing how wrong we humans have been thinking. But thankfully, we’re evolving more and more to understand how powerful and amazing we are.
So how can you create a more fulfilling life? Your first step might be to simply start paying more attention to your thoughts and feelings. Pay attention to what you head is thinking – rather than let it run on automatic pilot, what your thoughts and take time to feel your feelings. It wasn’t until I started doing this that I realised how chaotic my mind and body were!
So…what is the objective of life? The old Kim would have answered, ‘to make as much money as possible!’ But the new Kim has a totally different perspective. As I sit here in my coffee shop typing to you, my current life objective is to gain more and more fulfilment (indefinitely). Making money might be a part of my strategy but it’s not the end goal.
Oh how this new perspective changes everything. Rather than live my life questioning what will give me the largest return on investment, I now need to become an expert at asking what will give me the most fulfilment. Instead of thinking, how much money will I make…I now need to think, will this activity make my heart sing and my body buzz.
As a child I watched my parents argue over not having enough money. I often had to wear clothes that were too small and not cool amongst my peers. I felt that I missed out on the things my friends received. I never had the best toys nor did I ever go on a vacation. I remember getting a fake cabbage patch doll (one that my grandmother made me) rather than a store purchased doll. I was so ashamed – I couldn’t tell my friends that I didn’t have the real thing! As a child I felt so inadequate. So poor. My environment was one in which fulfilment in life was unheard of. I was so upset about being poor that I decided my life mission was to make money. Yes…money would solve everything (or so I thought!)
My parents were not taught about living a fulfilled life – they were taught that life was a struggle and something to be endured not enjoyed. They thought the objective of life was to survive…and the ways that they chose to cope were through drugs and alcohol. I seriously can’t blame them – when life hurts so much any relief must seem appealing.
I wonder, however, how different their lives would have been if they were taught a different life objective? My father was a brilliant artist – a creative genius and my mother was (and still is) full of creative abilities. If only they could have rid themselves of all the crap they were filled with as children/young adults and unleash their true beautiful selves! My mother is making good progress and perhaps my father is too – we don’t talk much so I don’t know.
Anyway, living my whole life in the pursuit of money isn’t something I can shake off easily. I find myself enjoying something – a new toy, doing art, understanding a company and all I can think about is how to make money from it. When talking to friends about their companies I quickly come up with strategies or ideas as to how they can double profits. I’m so money orientated that I do get a bit of a buzz coming up with ideas…but then I feel deflated when I consider having to put the time in to make the idea work.
So – what will net me the greatest fulfilment in life? I don’t know. Well…that’s not fair. I do know quite a few things that do make me feel fulfilled. I’m just not sure how to be fulfilled and afford it at the same time. Or is that just an excuse to bring money into the equation again? Each day I read, write, connect with people, spend time with my family and fit in exercise and or meditations. I am lucky enough to spend time on our boat, do art workshops and get a massage here and there. I have great friends and family to spend time with. But how do I turn this all into a lifestyle that works – one where I allow my creativity to flow in return for an income?
Life was easier when I didn’t have to answer such questions. Instead of being responsible for my fulfilment in life, it was so much easier to bumble along and blame the world for being miserable.
The crazy thing is that I know darn well how to make money…I just don’t know how to make it in a way that I feel fulfilled. Why is this such a dilemma? Why don’t I have the answer to this yet? Universe – it’s been 7 months were I’ve just flowed along and yet I feel none the wiser…help!
We all know that it feels great when we get out in the stream of life and do something new. At first we’re nervous and scared yet within moments of doing something new we start to flow and wonder why it took us so long to try this new thing.
But how many of us are failing to do something new on a routine basis? And if we do something new, how many of us still have to control the situation?
Up until last year I lived a very predictable life. Work was my main focus and on the side I’d have a bit of fun with friends/family here and there. Every week, I would work and work and work and even on the weekends I worked so more. I read work related books on productivity, internet marketing, management and so forth to continuously improve my game. And from time to time I was forced outside of my comfort zone (within the work environment only) – either I would have to give a presentation to a group, get interviewed or drive somewhere (driving scared me up until recently).
I would pretend to myself that I was always seeking new experiences and pushing myself to broaden my horizons, but it was a lie. I would only go outside my comfort zone, if and only if, I felt comfortable with the particular stretch in mind. For example, if I agreed to be interviewed for radio or TV I would worry about it for weeks before hand. I’d feel sick and regret my decision, however I knew that I’d get through it and I’d be okay. I suppose you could call it controlled comfort zone expansion. Also, I did work related comfort zone expansion exercises for the greater good – in other words, I did interviews because I knew it would help the company to grow. Everything I did was for the success of the company and not necessarily the success of Kim.
Well last year, after my decision to quit my job and figure out how to better enjoy my journey through life, I decided hubby and I needed to find more adventure. I pushed my husband into following one of his long held dreams. I convinced him that the time had come to buy a boat. (Notice that it wasn’t me that was going to buy the boat!)
Hubby, Simon, looked all over the UK for a used boat that we could afford and after a long search he found a boat up in Scotland. Simon then organised the inspection, sale, and found a skipper to help him sail it down to the South coast of England. The whole project was a massive endeavour and very scary for Simon. Just last night he told me how sick he felt when first sailing out of Scotland – he worried about whether he made the right decision or not. The boat wouldn’t be considered expensive to most people, but it was one of our largest purchases ever. And both of us have only sailed a handful of times – we did a few of those week long SunSail holiday flotillas.
The boat is now at home in Port Solent and we get out on it as much as possible. Simon does the driving and I do the ropes. Each time we depart I start feeling sick a few minutes before we leave and then shake for an hour after we get out of the marina. All I have to do is untie some ropes, tie us up in the lock and release us when it’s time to go. From time to time, Simon has to really work to get us out. The boat is 35 foot and doesn’t move as easy as one would hope. And there’s this silly thing called prop-kick which makes the boat turn when you don’t want it to.
We also did have one incident in Cowes, Isle of White, which is considered the world Capital of Sailing. We arrived late to a packed marina in heavy winds, couldn’t find our spot and got stuck going back and forth (in quick succession) between several million pound yachts. It was so embarrassing that I just wanted to jump in the water and drown myself. That experience left me shaking for 2 hours and only 3 glasses of wine calmed me down!
My nerves come down to fear of failure. I’m so afraid that I’ll mess up and even more afraid that Simon will ram us into another boat. It’s one thing to make a moron of yourself, it’s another to make a moron out of yourself AND cause thousands of pounds in damages. The ridiculous thing is that I really feel ill every time we go out sailing – it’s getting better and better but boy I totally empathise with people that don’t every try anything new. It hurts!
But again…look at the bigger picture with this situation. I’ve put myself into a controlled comfort zone expansion. Essentially, I got Simon to go after his dream and I’ve tacked myself onto it in a very small way. Am I one of the biggest control freaks ever? Honestly, I don’t know anyone more afraid of life than me. (But I’m working on this small issue – hehehehe).
A few days ago I was reading and thinking and I came to the conclusion that I’m still not being true to who I am. Not only have I neglected to think about what my dreams truly are…but I’ve pretended that I’m doing new comfort zone expansion things, when really, I’m just living vicariously through my hubby.
Hmmmm. What are my dreams? I don’t know. I’m too afraid to figure them out. Is it because I’m so afraid of going outside my comfort zone that I don’t even allow myself to think big?
Well, upon my realisation of being a total wimp, I’ve now decided to take a week long sailing course. Previously, I was going to have Simon do all the qualifications so that I could ride along as a passenger on his dream. The thing is this – I do love sailing, but I’ve been too afraid to really immerse myself in it. That is…until now!
So what are you doing to expand your comfort zone? First of all, are you doing anything? And if you are doing something, is it a true expansion or are you like me and pretending to jump into the stream of life?
How many times have you had a problem and no matter how hard you tried using your logic you couldn’t find a solution. Perhaps you needed money for something, were experiencing difficulties with someone you work with or had a fight will your partner and the more you thought about it, the worse the problem felt.
There’s a famous quote by Einstein that says something to the effect of: you can’t solve a problem with the same head that got you into it in the first place.
For years I’ve thought about this quote and the meaning and didn’t ‘get it’. I thought that perhaps I had to change my mood or make myself feel positive and then think about the problem in a new light, but that never seemed to work.
Last night I experimented a bit and I think I had a breakthrough. Let me give you the full details in the hopes that this might help you to solve issues. Right – yesterday hubby and I went to a financial advisor/planner to discuss our finances. My business partner is currently paying me money every quarter in return for the sale of some of my shares.
The money coming in is allowing me the freedom to take this year off work and figure out what I want to do with my life. In addition to living off the money there’s a bit more available to set aside into investments for my retirement. And there’s also a big tax bill that I need to save up for in 2014.
The meeting went well as far as the advisor went. We told him our plans and he discussed our options. The more money we put away now the larger the income we’ll get when we retire.
Here’s the problem…I want to find a way to earn an income soon so that we can put as much money away for later as possible. I however, don’t want to go down the road I’ve been down and work all hours known to man. I have this belief that you need to feel pain in order to get a return. I know that might sound bizarre, but I was taught that work sucks and then you die. Building my companies wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t my ultimate cup of tea either. Much of what I did was forced rather than natural.
My problem is that I desperately want to produce an income but I just don’t see how I can continue living the lifestyle I have now and make and income. I don’t see how I can write, create websites, and socialise (enjoy myself) and get paid for it!
So yesterday I became more and more miserable as I thought about my predicament. My thoughts spiralled so much that I envisioned me having no money left, no retirement and being in a terrible job. Logically, I simply couldn’t break away from the disempowering direction that my thoughts were taking me in.
By 9pm I had enough. I looked at my iTunes meditation genre list and decided to do the ‘Releasing Doubts and Fears’ in the Orin ‘Creating Money’ set. The meditation starts off with relaxation and gets you to drift into a different state of consciousness. I just went with the flow and didn’t really thing too much about my issues. At some point the speaker gets you to think of past successes and then to think about your issue. You have to visualise yourself in a box that’s holding you back and then watch the box disintegrate or whatever you want it to do.
As if by magic I started to see myself enjoying life, writing books and articles, getting paid and ultimately continuing doing what I’m doing right now…but making money for doing so. I saw myself truly flowing in the stream of life. No everything wasn’t perfect nor is that my aim, but my work/life situation was the best ideal I can currently imagine. And it was more than just seeing it…I felt myself feeling so in love with life. I felt natural and grateful. And I was so proud of myself for truly living my dream rather than comprising or settling for less.
I even saw myself on our boat typing up my daily article and feeling at peace that I was creating an income to maintain the lifestyle I desired. Now please don’t get me wrong – I’m not a lazy person. I don’t want to sail around eating seafood and doing nothing for the rest of my life. I do however want to express my creative talents (and hopefully make the world a better place) while sailing around eating seafood. Working and expressing myself is so very important to me…I can’t imagine being force to do nothing. I want to add value to the world – but I want to do it in a way were I truly am giving the best of me.
So – my whole point here is that logic seems to keep you on the same path that you’re already on. If you’re on a path where you’re upset or angry, your brain will just bring up more of that. It’s as if you need to turn the channel of your brain so that it allows a different kind of assistance. And that channel change can’t be done with logic.
The next time you have an issue, rather than ruminate for hours, you can try to meditate or failing that, get yourself a guided meditation or hypnosis download. There’s loads of them available on the Internet for a very low cost. And there seems to be something for any issue – money, relationships, confidence, fears, addictions and so forth.
It’s early days for me but I do think I ‘get it’ when it comes to what Einstein was talking about. As a quick side note…did you know that the way Einstein came up with new ideas was to sit in a chair with a big ball in his hand. What would happen is just before he would fall asleep the ball would fall and wake him up. Right at the moment – the moment between being awake and asleep he would come up with amazing insights. Einstein learned how to use something other than logic…something deeper. I think that if each of us were to learn how to use that ‘something deeper’ we’d all have more meaningful lives.
Throughout my school years Art was always my most favourite class. I enjoyed making clay mugs, tie dye cloth, painting pictures, and carving out those tiles that allowed for some sort of ink printing (I can’t remember what it was called). I would look forward to my art classes knowing that I’d be able to lose myself in some sort of flow. Time would fly by whereas it was quite the opposite when I went to history class!
When asked what I wanted to become as an adult I always told people I was going to be an artist. Upon hearing my declaration, my family always said the same old thing: ‘No one makes money from doing Art,’ or ‘Artists are poor…You need to get an education in something that will make you money.’
So at the age of 18 I hung up my desire for art and decided to go to university to become a psychologist. After my first psychology class I realised I was way too messed up to help anyone else so I changed my degree to accounting. Heck, if my purpose in life was to make money, I mind as well learn how to account for it! I forced my way through double entry book keeping and went on to learn all the rules regarding the great field of accountancy. I didn’t like it at all, but as far as I knew no one liked their profession – it was just something you had to get on with so that you could progress through life.
In some strange way I think I was taught that your job is going suck so you mind as well get an education that provides for the highest paying job possible.
Even now I struggle with the concept of truly enjoying something AND getting paid for it! It seems like I have to be miserable while working and in return I get paid for my misery. How messed up is that?
Anyway, as my degree became more difficult I realised that accountancy wasn’t going to work. I just wasn’t interested in it enough to ‘get it’. After five years of University, I finally graduated with a degree in Business Management – it’s the degree you do if you don’t know what you want in life. It covers everything!
So Art was forced out of my life. Year after year, however, I always had this little feeling that I was missing my ability to create in an artistic manner. I often thought of taking an art class or getting a book about painting techniques, but something in my head said, ‘what kind of moron are you? Stop being so silly.’
Even three years ago a woman I work with challenged me to take an art class. She gave me 3 months to set something up and I held her accountable to sign up for a writing class. The 3 months came and went and I still avoided any movement towards art.
What the heck was going on in my head? Why was I so repelled by simply taking an art class? I knew that I loved doing art yet I felt as if I couldn’t go near it. I wonder if I was afraid I’d like art too much and want to make it my job…and therefore have to become poor. Nuts, isn’t it?
Lucky for me I’ve been on this incredible journey to find out how I can enjoy life more. A few weeks ago I was meeting a friend who introduced me to another friend and before I knew it, I agreed to go on an Art Journaling workshop (offered by the friend of a friend).
This past weekend I enjoyed a full day of playing Art. I had access to all sorts of paints, materials and techniques. I learned how to do some things with watercolour, acrylic, paper, stamps, chalks, crayons, paint spray, decals, and glue. The workshop was just like an art class in school – I was given a bit of instruction and then allowed to play. Yes – I played!!! And it wasn’t like playing with my daughter where I’m watching her play and enjoying her enjoy herself. This was my kind of play…I had a real sense of allowing the kid in me to come out and simply enjoy every second of my day.
Remembering how to play is an amazing experience!
At first I was very scared. I just didn’t want to make a mistake. I wanted to be perfect and be able to do something amazing. But I quickly pushed my fear away and just took action. I painted one colour and then another and I quickly realised two things. 1. In most cases if something didn’t look good to start off with I could keep doing something (add more or change it) and it would eventually start to look better and better. 2. If it looked really bad, I successfully learned what not to do on my next project.
The workshops was structured so perfectly. To start we were taught just to use two watercolours and blend them onto a small piece of card. We were then taught different techniques and played with several more pieces of small card. Over the course of the day we moved on to larger pieces of paper and eventually we did a variety of things on canvas.
Our teacher, Joy, explained that, ‘If you ask children to go write a story or paint a picture, they just do it, but as adults when asked the write a story or paint a picture they get filled with fear!’ It’s so true! Growing up for so many of us means following a path that gets narrower and narrower. The more we age, the more afraid we become. We get stuck in a rut that defines us.
The workshop was such a great event for me. I felt what it was like to not only be a kid again, but to express myself in a different way. Rather than use words and heavy logic I simply sat there remembering how to play.
I didn’t realise that play has been completely absent in my life.
I thought I was playing when I went out for a drink with my friends or when I went for a run. I thought adult play was about doing something other than work with your free time.
No, no, no! I now realise that play is the ability to do something that you completely and utterly enjoy. I didn’t know what was missing until I did it. And now I know that doing some sort of art is something that makes me feel great. No – I don’t have to become an artist nor do I have this need to totally change my life and figure out how to make money through art. I can simply go to more workshops, buy a paint by numbers or start doodling on the back of my yellow pad.
In addition to remembering how to play, the group that joined the workshop were all wonderful people. The discussions were light and fun. There was nothing too serious – some of us were quiet and really became absorbed by what we were doing and others were able to create and talk. Most of us seemed to ebb and flow with the day – a bit of art and a bit of chatting. The workshop and the entire day was perfect.
If you’re in the Midlands or South and you’re looking for a way to play again, I highly recommend that you get in touch with Lisa Cherry as she runs both an art and and a writing workshop. Check out Lisa’s next workshops here: http://www.lisacherry.co.uk/events/
So..do you ever play? Or perhaps you need to add ‘remembering how to play’ on your list of things to do?