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7 steps to finding personal fulfillment in life

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Time has a habit of creeping up on us. One moment we’re young and excited, looking forward to a life full of adventure. Then, suddenly, we’re halfway through that life, wondering where the years went.

As we age, we become more aware that our time in the physical realm is getting shorter. We start focusing on the things we haven’t done, but what if we focused instead on the things we can still do?

How to find personal fulfillment

For our purposes, living a fulfilling life means achieving the things that are important to you. It’s a highly personal journey, because the things that contribute to your fulfilling life may be quite different from what your best friend or neighbor considers fulfilling.

We can’t help you figure out which causes you’re passionate about, or how to make every day at your job count. What we can do is show you the mental and emotional tools you can use to light your own path to self-fulfillment.

1. Be grateful

When things don’t go our way, we often think, “If only it were different.” We fixate on why things aren’t a certain way, rather than expressing gratitude for what we do have. From there, it’s a slippery slope to getting stuck in what we think our life should look like, rather than what it does look like.

Take a time-out each day to offer a silent or verbal thanks for what you have, whether that’s your home, your pets, or just the sun shining outside. Gratitude changes your focus; instead of looking at what you don’t have, you develop a deeper appreciation for what you do have. This more positive mindset makes it easier to continue building the life you want.

2. Give back

None of us exist in a vacuum. We are all part of something bigger, whether that’s a family unit, a circle of friends, or a larger community. Contributing in any way strengthens your ties to your circle, and giving back can take many forms: donating money to a charity, offering your time and skills to a building project, or even just making a neighbor dinner.

3. Remember to breathe

Life can move so quickly, it sometimes feels like we’re just along for the ride. At least once a day, pump the brakes on whatever you’re doing and take a few deep breaths. This pause gives you a break, lets your mind reset — even just a little bit — and can help build the strength you need to jump back into what you were doing.

4. Nurture important relationships

The Grant Study, a 75-year study conducted on Harvard graduates, found that relationships “[have] a powerful influence” on our lives. When things go wrong, it isn’t the latest material object that will make you feel better; it’s the people around you that you’ll turn to for comfort.

So get dinner with your friends. Exchange text messages with your siblings. Check in with the people you care about — and they’ll do the same for you.

5. Practice patience

Our world has evolved into one where a breakneck pace is the norm. Rushing through life won’t help you find self-fulfillment, or anything else, for that matter.

Be patient with your work, with others, but above all, be patient with yourself. If you make a mistake, that’s all right. In the end, we are all on this journey together, and we are all deserving of the same patience we might show to our friends and neighbors.

6. Set goals

If you haven’t accomplished a goal or task that you wanted to, now is the perfect time to start working toward it. Figure out what steps you’ll need to take to reach each goal, and give yourself a timeline to get it done. For example, if you want to surf in Hawaii on your 70th birthday, you’ll need to plan surfing lessons, booking tickets and a hotel, and so on.

7. Use your time wisely

We don’t all have the same amount of time on the planet, but we do get to decide how to use it. So, how would you prioritize your time if you knew exactly how many hours, days, or years you had left?

Most of us aren’t in a position to quit our jobs and run away to a tropical island. But you can shift hours here and there to give yourself more time to focus on what’s important to you. That could look like easing up on work and spending that time with family and friends. It might mean turning off the news and reading a book instead.

Time is our most precious resource. Make sure you’re spending yours in a way that’s meaningful to you.

Personal fulfillment is an ongoing journey

You may have heard the quote, “It’s the journey that counts, not the destination.” That’s the case with finding fulfillment in life; it’s not so much a place you arrive at as it is a constant set of practices to live by.

All of us have a limited amount of time on this planet — but you have an advantage you may not have considered. You’re here right now, thinking about how you want the rest of your life to look. You can live a fulfilling life and spend time with the people you love. So go ahead and think about what you’d like to accomplish — there’s no time like the present to start.

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