Life may have no meaning. Or even worse, it may have a meaning of which I disapprove. ~ Ashleigh Brilliant
It took me a while to figure out that the future held no self-fulfillment for me. It was hard to come to that conclusion while I was immersed in the noisy banter of beliefs and ideas that my friends, family, and religion clung to. Perhaps you’ve experienced this as well? Perhaps you’ve noticed that everyone seems to think that true self-fulfillment lies in some idealistic future, where everything is as perfect and spotless as God’s lavatory.
“Don’t worry honey, you’ll be able to relax once you finish university”, “Everything will be fine once you get a pay rise and manage to sell all your paintings and then fly to Las Vegas for the premier, in 5 star luxury”, “You’ll be happy once you get her to love you”, “It will all be alright once you manage to earn brownie points, save a few souls, and make it to heaven unscathed”.
In essence, the people around us and the people we even trust the most, live an illusion and spread the lie that satisfaction, achievement and happiness is waiting in some place beyond the horizon. While striving for the future brings our lives meaning, it’s a sickly kind of meaning ridden with anxiety, tension and dissatisfaction. If you’re a perfectionist, the pursuit of self-fulfillment is probably making your life hell at the moment, like it did with mine.
So, why can’t we find self-fulfillment right now? We’ll get to that soon. But first …
Everyone’s a Peeping Tom
You can think of it this way: in the scheme of things everyone’s basically a peeping Tom. The people around us have a knack, and sometimes immense interest looking in on our lives, and then telling us how they think we should run them. This is especially the case if you’re surrounded by rigid people who believe there’s a “right way” to do everything, including how to attain self-fulfillment.
How many times have you listened to and watched the people around you say through their words and deeds that to be self-fulfilled you must have everything bigger and better than everyone else around you? People bored and unhappy with their lives tend to have the amusing habit of telling other people what they should do with their lives. This is why the ability to find privacy away from life’s busybodies is essential.
How can we think independently to discover who we are and what we want when we’re constantly bombarded with other people’s mental and verbal diarrhea? Personally, I moved away from my parents and left their religion to stop the noisy interference to find my own path.
If you’re deeply dissatisfied with your life, as I was, perhaps you need to find some Solitude? Only in Solitude can we find the time to cultivate the awareness and introspection we need to discover what will make us happy and what will bring us self-fulfillment.
What a Crazy Man Said
He who has a why to live, can deal with almost any how. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche … many people hated him and if you’re religious, you may be highly biased against him as well. But if you try to look past that and read the statement above, you’ll see that his words carry some truth. Without meaning, without a “why” our lives are virtually useless and purposeless.
If you look at the main cause of depression and suicide in society, the overriding cause is a feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. What’s the point of living if there’s no point anymore? This is why the self-fulfillment that comes in Solitude is so important.
Solitude allows us to truly discover what will fulfill us, and self-fulfillment provides us with the meaning to continue living our lives with happiness. Take the story of Viktor Frankl, a Nazi concentration camp survivor and psychotherapist. Although he lived in abysmal circumstances where he was treated little better than a dog day after day, he never lost hope.
His fulfillment came in delighting in the small morsels of beauty there were, rewriting scraps of a manuscript that had perished, and living the whole ordeal as a learning experience, to tell his students in the future. Unsurprisingly, he called his book “Man’s Search For Meaning“.
We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life daily and hourly. ~ Viktor Frankl
Self-fulfillment and meaning are inextricably linked. As we have seen, to be fulfilled we need some kind of meaning. Whether that be personal, interpersonal, or religious is up to you. But as Sol said in his previous article on Happiness, true happiness is eternally reborn. True happiness is adapting to each present moment in complete acceptance, without any expectations or ideals.
Happiness comes with momentary appreciation and acceptance, but also comes from meaning as well. If happiness can be constantly regenerated each moment, so can self-fulfillment. People seem to think that life should be about one all-or-nothing purpose that brings happiness. But why can’t we feel a sense of achievement, satisfaction and happiness every day?
Just a few minutes ago I felt great satisfaction and accomplishment savoring and eating a whole banana. I’m currently feeling self-fulfilled writing this article and typing every word. In a few hours time, I will feel fulfilled reading the book I’ve chosen to learn from. You see, we can make a million little meanings every day.
Why does self-fulfillment have to involve “one big grandiose plan”? As Viktor Frankl said, “the meaning of life differs from man to man and from moment to moment“. By making many different meanings every day, we will constantly feel fulfilled.
And finally, by exploring ourselves in Solitude, we will know where to look and start in the first place.