How would you answer, "What was the happiest moment of your life?"
My friends answer this question with events like the birth of a child, a wedding day, or graduation. These moments of joy last surprisingly short. Life goes back to normal the next day. What if these moments of fulfillment were a part of everyday life, rather than one moment?
Fulfilled is defined, "satisfied or happy because of fully developing one's abilities or character." Being fulfilled is a process through failures and victories, rather than focused on one specific moment. A fulfilling life comes from building habits that lead to joy.
Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit." Similarly, a fulfilled life is not defined by a moment of accomplishment; rather it is defined by healthy habits. Creating a fulfilling life means daily acts that over time create a satisfaction.
The University College of London found that it takes 66 days to make a habit permanent. I want to share with you habits to implement for 66 days to create a fulfilling life. Try at least one of habits below for 66 days.
1. Experiment with Failure
A part of human nature is to fail, especially when it comes to starting a new habit. I once believed whenever I failed that I lacked the talent to accomplish the task, or I wasn't "destined" to be a success. I saw failure as permanent. My failures defined me. My belief halted any pursuit of new ways to accomplish goals. A life goal I had, but never seemed to accomplish, was to exercise daily.
Exercise daily for 66 days would be my greatest struggle. However, I didn't let failure stop me from starting. Rather than letting my past failures define me, I saw failure (missing a day of exercise) as a learning opportunity. When I didn't exercise, I analyzed why I failed, then created plans to overcome future "failures." When you experiment with your failures, you can understand what obstacles will come your way and how to overcome them. There is no such thing as a failed experiment. There is only feedback.
2. Surround Yourself with Competition
My wife and I recently discovered we have a plum tree in our backyard. The tree never produced fruit before this year. After some research, I discovered that plum trees do not thrive solo. They require different kinds of plum trees for cross-pollination, and thus further growth. I searched our yard for another tree and sure enough I found the 2nd plum tree only 10 feet away from the first.
I used to think nature was a dog-eat-dog world. Only the strongest survive. But my plum tree needed a friend in order to thrive. In the same way, you need friends to help accomplish your goals.
3. Never stop learning
Children never stopped wondering about the world. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, my curiosity about life withered. I remember kids harassing me in junior high because I was curious about science. I craved the approval of others, so I steered away from science and killed my curiosity.
The easiest way to revitalize your curiosity is to breath life into it again. Try things you did as a child. Fly a kite. Play a board game. Research a topic you know little about. Watch TED videos. Keep a journal and write down ideas to research later. In this way, you will never stop learning about our ever-curious world.
4. Whatever you focus on, increases.
You will find more of life's blessings if you focus on building gratitude. If you focus on life's problems, then you will only find more problems. A shift in focus requires mental effort. I once defined myself by my failures. I focused on them when I tried new scary things (like a 66-day experiment). It shouldn't surprise you that I had a history of failure when I approached life this way. Now, I focus on how I can overcome potential failures when trying new things to become the best version of myself.
5. Adopt daily gratitude
Research demonstrates that grateful people have fulfilling lives. Gratitude shifts your focus from your problems (no matter how big or concerning) to what you've been given. Practicing daily gratitude helped me conquer my inner negative Nancy.
Ever since I was a child, I seemed bent to focus on the glass half empty, but that changed after implementing a new habit. What catalyzed my metamorphosis into a positive Polly was my wife. I was blessed to marry the most encouraging and positive woman on the planet. Her positive outlook forced me to realize how I consistently focus on the negative. One day, I became sick with myself and searched Google, "How to become a more positive person." That is when I discovered the daily gratitude habit.
Rather than focusing on my problems, I focused on my blessings. I kept a daily gratitude journal. I would write things like (these are copied from my gratitude journal)
My wife is the most beautiful woman I know on planet earth, and she married me! Hot dog.
I'm super happy to pay off nearly $24,000 of debt at the end of the month of August
[my daughter] is awesome. She is adorable, even during her grumpy mornings
I love the drive time in between work and home because I get to learn about business uninterrupted
Healthy habits lead to a life of satisfaction. This path isn't easy. If it were easy, then everyone would have a six-pack abs, millions of dollars, and happy relationships. The road to change is paved with blood, sweat, and tears. Your habits define the life you live. Start today.
Which of your habits create a fulfilling life?