Updated: Feb 7, 2022
I was just talking to a lawyer the other day who was feeling unhappy, restless, at loose ends, and unfulfilled. He didn’t know how to find meaning in his life. And this was after his spending much time thinking about his dilemma. Such a smart guy, feeling so stupid at finding fulfillment.
There are a hell of a lot of books, videos, and courses out there on how to find fulfillment. And they all sound so...motivational! Follow your passion! Do what you love! You have the power!
And yet most people I actually know and with whom I’ve worked actually find this kind of uplift to be confusing, overwhelming, and not terribly useful.
But I have found a pathfinder that's very simple and do-able that can help you get solidly on the path to a more fulfilling life. This fulfillment pathfinder has one overwhelming benefit: it works. In fact, it’s helped more people than you can imagine. It’ll give you direction and get you unstuck. Of course, you’ll still have to actually make choices and then DO something, but at least you’ll be on the road and have a good map.
All you have to do is get a piece of paper and put down three columns, like this:
THINGS I'M GOOD AT
THINGS I CARE ABOUT
THINGS I ENJOY
For the moment, don’t think about where this is heading.
First, list stuff you’re good at. They might be your talents. Or stuff you’ve learned over time. Perhaps you can talk to absolutely anybody. You’re incredibly patient. You’re good with numbers. Or kids. Or animals. You’re good with details. Whatever.
And when I say “good at,” I don’t mean a world champ or anything. I just mean EITHER you’re better than most people you know OR this is what you yourself are best at.
Then list the stuff you care about. That’s meaningful to you. Betty White, who just died, cared about animals. Maybe you care about the planet. Or starving children. Maybe you care about something less profound, though, like fashion. Or manners. Whatever it is, it’s something you feel is important or at least important to you.
And then list stuff you enjoy. Here we’re in the realm of fun and pleasure. Or stuff you’re wildly interested in. This may not be stuff you’re good at or care about, but you sure as hell like it. Sailing. Dancing. Drawing. Playing the guitar. Whatever it is, it makes you happy.
So fill out your three lists. The more items on each list, the better.
Now here’s one secret, with more to come. Any ONE of the items on any list—if you focus on it—will give you fulfillment. Yeah! Really!
The next secret—for how that works—is you’ll just have to let go of trying to find the perfectly fulfilling option. That’s fulfillment in the real world for real people. They do something that they REALLY care about OR are really good at OR find a lot of fun, and they don’t look back.
The next secret is that you may be able to do even better than this. Is there an item on one list that somehow links to an item on another list? Let’s say you CARE ABOUT hungry children and you LIKE gardening. Now maybe your little garden could never feed all that many children. But is there a way maybe to partner with others to plant a much bigger garden devoted to growing vegetables for hungry kids?
Almost everyone finds a number of pairings like this. And that increases your odds of finding fulfillment.
The last secret is that maybe you can find a way to do more than one thing. One thing from one list, another thing from another list.
Best of all, this fulfillment pathfinder is what actual people in the real world—in the midst of the confusions and burdens we all have—do to find fulfillment and meaning. And you can do it too.