When we think of what we ultimately want in life, happiness tends to be up there. But when we dig a bit deeper, and ask ourselves exactly what will make us happy, often big goals around fulfilment will start to appear. This may look different for every one of us – you might for example, love to run a marathon in your lifetime. Someone else might always have dreamed of running their own business, or learn to play the guitar. Big dreams and achievements that we feel will add that taste of umami to life, creating a sense of richness and depth and fulfilment.
The psychology of fulfilment
But in order to give ourselves a chance to be able to do those things that give us a sense of fulfilment, psychologists have found that we must have certain things in place first. Humanistic Psychologist Abraham Maslow outlines these in his famous ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, a kind of ‘equation’ for fulfilment.
First and foremost, we must meet our basic physiological needs; security, shelter, easy access to food, enough sleep. Then once we have these basic necessities, we need safety and security; our health, employment and enough money to support ourselves, family and social security.
After that life starts to get a little more enjoyable – next we need to feel loved and a sense of belonging – friends, social connections, intimacy all play a huge part here. Once we have these requirements in place in our lives, we then evolve our needs further, to need a sense of individuality, and mutual respect for other people, confidence to achieve, and self-esteem.
And it’s only when we have all of these needs met, that we can then realise our sense of fulfilment in life through creativity, personal growth, problem solving, a sense of meaning and context for life. Maslow described this as self-actualisation, and this only occurs when we are engaged in achieving our full potential, wherein we reach a state of understanding and harmony in life.
What you need to find fulfilment in your life
In his research, Maslow outlined the qualities he observed in people who had found self-fulfilment in life and realised that they all had similar traits. So, once your hierarchy of needs had been met, if you want to be a fulfilled person, you’ll also want to tap into your sense of problem solving. Self-actualising people are ‘problem centred’; seeing life's obstacles as problems that need solutions. You’ll also need to be ‘reality centred’ and find the difference between truth and deception in the world. Interestingly, people who tend to find fulfilment in life are also independent and choose to have fewer, yet closer relationships over a large number of less close friendships*. Fancy yourself as a bit of a nonconformist? You’ll also need to step away from needing to follow social norms too closely.
What’s getting in your way?
So, where are you in your hierarchy of needs? Do you have everything you need in place in order to find your sense of fulfilment? Or are there some obstacles in your way?
First look at your basic needs – shelter, food, sleep. Is there anything you can do here to create better conditions for yourself? Perhaps a healthier diet to fuel your body, or a better sleep routine? Alcohol has been found to reduce our quality of sleep, and, as we see in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, this is a fundamental basic we need in place in order to fulfil any other following needs, let alone reach the top of the hierarchy; fulfilment. So, it might be worth cutting down on, or cutting out alcohol all together.
Then look at your safety and security; your health, where you spend your money, your relationship with your close family and your social support. Can you improve anything here to create a more stable foundation in your life? What can you do to be healthier? Is there anything you spend money on that could be put to better use? Can you heal any wounds in close family relationships?
Then, look at where can you bring more love and social connection into your life? Could you enlist some support from a loved one, or find a place in a new community where you feel you belong? The OYNB forum, for example, is a wonderful place to connect with likeminded people and find new, real social connection.
And then, can you work to improve your sense of self-esteem, so that you can cultivate the confidence to go after your goals? What can you do to find a sense of your own individuality in order to discover that confidence?
The benefits of a fulfilled life
Maslow theorised that ‘self-actualised’, or fulfilled people, tended to experience states of flow – a realisation of our own potential. He called these ‘peak experiences’, which were profound periods or experiences of love and happiness which makes us feel whole, connected, independent, at peace and alive. Those of us who find fulfilment in life, have more of these ‘peak experiences’, often many times throughout the day. Essentially, his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ serves as a blueprint of steps to take in order to live life to its fullest experience. And you know what they say… you only get one!
If you want a helping hand to create a sense of fulfilment, aliveness, and peace in your life, and you feel that alcohol could be impacting your ability to create the foundations you need, why not join us and take the OYNB challenge?
Photo 2 by Nandhu Kumar on Pexels
Photo 3 by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash