Feeling stuck or dissatisfied?
Why the path to fulfilment is something bigger than you
My late teens were one of the happiest periods of my life. Having minimal responsibility and maximum time to have fun probably had something to do with it. More importantly, I was a member of a church community at that time. Christianity is not a faith I have now and in some ways I was a completely different person. Yet I can now look back on that time now through my lens as a hypnotherapist and coach, recognising what it was about that time that led to my deeper contentment.
Something bigger than us
Positive psychology has shown that we thrive when we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. For me aged 18 it was a sense of connection to my community, church, God and acting from a place of service to those things. ‘Bigger than me’ causes are infinite in their possibility: family, community, charity, politics, a football team or a country are all examples. Put simply, we all need reasons to live and without them we can feel empty and lost.
The dangers of no bigger cause
By contrast, a time when I was my most unhappy and dissatisfied was when I was working a tedious temping job in a dysfunctional office which was just a means to an end. I was preparing for a legal career that didn’t excite me and I was living in a short-term accommodation arrangement where I had no relationship to the local community. In short, I wasn’t focusing on anything outside of me and was rarely experiencing flow. I felt I had nothing to serve.
So, what happened? I started drinking more heavily, shopping more and looking for thrills because I was bored out of my mind. I sabotaged my relationship and acted very selfishly. I completely lost touch with my values and what was important to me. It was a classic example of ‘The Pleasant Life’ taken too far.
I think knowing the emptiness and self-destructiveness of that time, led me to what I do now and is one of the reasons that I’m so passionate about living a life that aligns with your values and serving something bigger than you.
How a sense of purpose helps you
When we’re living life connected to goals or ideas bigger than ourselves, our ego tends to fall away. What do I mean by that? We tend to be more courageous because we can see how our actions are operating within a bigger context. We’re less worried about what other people think of us because our attention is taken up with the bigger picture of what we’re serving or working towards.
Purpose also makes us more resilient to adversity and negative emotions. When we have to surmount obstacles and struggle through challenges, we’re much more likely to keep going if we can see the bigger meaning and value to what we’re doing. As Nietzche famously said:
“he who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”.
What do you want your life to be about?
For some people, all this talk of ‘life purpose’, ‘service’ and having a ‘bigger cause’ can seem heavy and overwhelming. It can also feel uncomfortable admitting that your life does not reflect what you would want it to be about. And of course there are so many things we could direct our attention towards. There are millions of noble causes – where do we even begin?
A powerful way of exploring this question is to imagine yourself at the end of your life, in your rocking chair. Imagine that you’ve reached the end of your life and you’ve lived what you would consider to be a fulfilled life. Looking back on the life you’ve led, what decisions and actions did you take which led to you being so fulfilled as this old person? Take a few minutes to close your eyes and imagine yourself in your rocking chair and be open and curious about what arises.
Give yourself permission to have fun with exploring purpose. You can be light-hearted and playful in looking for opportunities to serve causes or people around you. Whilst philanthropy, family and my business are all things I act in service of, I also place ‘having fun’ high-up the priority list. Just like I don’t believe in ‘the one’, I also don’t believe you need one, single purpose that you keep until the end of time.
Do you want to create more fulfilment?
If you’re feeling stuck, bored or frustrated and want to experience greater satisfaction and a life you love, why not book in for a free initial consultation. We can have a free, 45 minute discussion about what you would like more of, what is holding you back and how you can begin to work towards it. There’s no obligation following this initial chat and it could make all the difference in changing the course of your life for the better.
January 09th, 2018