Fulfillment may reside in the future but that path to it is best prepared today. That elusive and much sort-after goal is actually easier to reach than you might think IF you think about it in the right way.
Before you start though, it might be necessary to do a little groundwork (groundwork is what’s done before a new foundation can be laid). I know that people like me are always banging on about the future, focussing on the present, living in the moment, and stuff like that, but with fulfilment, for once, it’s also relevant to consider the past.
It’s relevant because your past is where you forged your identity, and also because – like quite a few people – you might be carting-about dissatisfaction or other weighty emotions that hinder you in the here and now.
The past also has examples of times when you were happiest (or feeling most fulfilled), that you could build on if only you recognised what they were, how they occurred, and how you made them happen.
Reviewing these two aspects – bad stuff you could usefully leave behind and successes and other good stuff you may have ignored or forgotten – can be done as two separate exercises. There’s good reason to keep them separate, but I can’t be bothered to explain it here because today I’m pushed for time so I’m giving you the quick version.
First, the bad stuff
This might be anywhere on a spectrum from ‘nuisance’ to ‘really scary’, for you to decide. If it’s at the lower end of the spectrum you can probably deal with it yourself. You might also have to deal WITH yourself by accepting that you are keeping it alive, and deciding to dump it. Get over it, in other words, let it go, suck it up etc. (Please don’t think me unsympathetic. I might be, but that’s beside the point. I’ll reserve my sympathy for those at the upper end of the spectrum.)
You’ll know if you are at this end of the spectrum if the overriding sentiment about whatever happened in the past is one of self-pity, blame, guilt or regret for a missed opportunity.
It gets more serious and harder to deal with if the past has harmed you physically or emotionally, or if the recollections of the past are in some way defining you today (really scary). There is still a lot you can do once you have decided to set yourself free, but you might need help from someone who can provide you with some pointers and support to get you going. Seek out a therapist who works in a future-oriented way (you want to change your relationship with your past, not dwell on it), and also consider self-help. For example symbolic healing and ‘letting go’, or designing a personal ritual of acceptance, or going on a pilgrimage have helped many people.
Celebrating the good stuff
This is where the rebuilding starts. Reviewing your successes, you competencies and abilities, and the multitude of things you have done right in your life, is the first step. The next is to train yourself to do this regularly, and to congratulate yourself on your achievements (however small). Persist at this, and you’ll start to retrain your mind. After all, why repeat your failures when it would be more fun and fulfilling to repeat and build on your successes.
You might also consider starting a new project; building or making things is good because it provides tangible proof of your efforts as well as using manual skills. Finding a challenge like a marathon, a climb or a swim, for example, combines several elements that promote physical AND psychological wellbeing. Completing a challenge also provides a signal-point of positive change.
If you choose to actively work towards greater sense of freedom and satisfaction in your life by following any of these suggestions, here are a few points to remember:
- Avoid the temptation of discouraging yourself by predicting the outcome. Whatever your beliefs right now, you don’t actually know the outcome, nor the consequences, of anything you decide to do.
- Attitude is everything. Deciding to make a change and leave some aspect of the past behind, is as important as getting on with it.
- Doing the ‘bad stuff’ bit means looking yourself and your beliefs in the eye, and accepting that, whatever has happened, it is over now UNLESS you keep it alive by reliving it. If this is by choice (re-live it that is), it’s within your power to stop it. If it is involuntary (dreams, flashbacks and so on), it’s important to get help. Such symptoms are easily controlled with the right approach. Contact me if you want to know how to get that help (I won’t try to sell you anything).
- Never under-estimate the power of your unconscious mind. It will do a lot of the work for you is you prime it in the right way (see the suggestions above), and if you let it.
- Change takes time and, like fulfilment, may not be apparent until after it has happened. Have confidence in the fact that you are doing something for yourself, and just get on with it.
- Start small, be patient, and trust the process.