It’s very easy to live a full life, to go through the motions of living, without being fulfilled. I am as guilty as anyone else. Let me explain.
Some years ago (read that as many) I sat down to reflect on my life. I had attained the items I thought I wanted to be happy and successful. Most were things – the house, car and clothes I coveted. On some level, I believed having the trappings of a successful life would translate into creating the feelings of a happy life. The reality was very different.
My perspective at the time was flawed. Material things can be nice and they are fun to accumulate especially when they are part of a passion, hobby, or lifestyle you enjoy. But things and money don’t provide the one thing we all desire … fulfillment.
I wanted my life to be satisfying and meaningful – not just at the end, looking back, but at every step along the way. I don’t believe I am alone in this. Far too many of us are getting up every day and we don’t have a passion or purpose in what we do. We’ve lost track of our life goals and are not sure how to get back on the path towards living a fulfilled life. The difference between people enjoying life and just living, are the choices and mindset we have.
So, I decided to change my life, both personal and professional. On my journey, I learned some lessons which I hope will help those still looking for meaning. The answer is different for everyone but for me, some of the keys to a leading a fulfilled life are:
1. Loving Relationships – Having loving, supportive relationships including your spouse, friends, family and work associates is the most important ingredient for a fulfilling life. Many studies support this truth.
2. Happiness in Work – Finding your life passion through your work is ideal. Given that is not attainable for everyone, you at least need to be happy with your profession most of the time. You need to feel your work is important and valuable, that you are respected and regularly challenged. You spend a huge chunk of your time at work. If you aren’t generally fulfilled in your work, it’s nearly impossible to feel fulfilled in life.
3. A Sense of Purpose – Having a greater sense of purpose or meaning provides context and direction for your decisions and actions. For me it is about making a difference – to my family, work colleagues, clients and the community I work and live in. Simply put, it is about giving back.
This is one of the major reasons that Elisa and I established Inspire. Our goal is to promote wellness and to make it accessible.
4. A Healthy Lifestyle – If you aren’t healthy and don’t remain healthy as you age, it’s hard to enjoy life – much less find it fulfilling. Clearly this ties into point 3 above.
5. A Positive Mindset – Positive thinking isn’t jargon. Consciously shifting your thoughts away from negativity and worry, to more positive, grateful and happy thoughts changes your outlook. By choosing positive thoughts, you are being a creator rather than a reactor to life.
6. Experiencing Now – Life needs to be experienced in the present moment. When we dwell in the past or focus too much in the future, we aren’t truly living. This is an area I am still working on… I don’t stop to smell the roses often enough.
7. Perspective About Challenges – Many of us view life challenges as negative. When we face difficulty, we view ourselves as unlucky. However, with a change in perspective and a shift in thinking, you’ll see how challenges enhance our lives. They teach us to become more empathetic, humble and fearless. Challenges will happen, allow them to add to your experience.
Finding fulfilment on your mat
You are perfect and at the same time, you have the potential to be more. The concept of feeling complete where you are, while simultaneously reaching toward a fuller expression of yoga is called purna, Sanskrit for “fullness.” How do we find this “fullness” in our practice? We can apply the keys of finding a fulfilled life, to our practice on the mat.
1. Loving relationship … with yourself
You don’t become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you. We are already whole; we practice yoga to remember that. Our practice allows us to build loving relationship with ourselves as we take time to slowdown and develop inner awareness.
2. Happiness on your mat.
We find happiness on our mats when we learn to celebrate what our bodies can do in that moment for that moment.
3. A sense of purpose
When we dedicate our practice beyond ourselves, our practice takes on a higher purpose. Our practice becomes more than just about us, flowing to our family, community and further on.
4. Eating Healthy
When we nourish our bodies with the right food, we find ourselves stronger, energized and able to go deeper in our asanas. I frequently hear people who say their practice is better when they don’t eat meat; others are even more disciplined being vegetarian or vegan. Personally I haven’t travelled to far down this path … yet!
5. Positive mindset
Possessing a can do and positive attitude on the mat is critical. It is amazing what you can achieve by believing you can; it is equally true that you will fail when the little voice in your head says “I can’t do this”.
6. Experiencing now
Our breath is our constant connection to the here and now, and our presence is rooted in its flow. Breathe in and say to yourself “I am breathing in”, breathe out saying “I am breathing out.” On your next cycle of breath, try saying to yourself “I am here” coupled with “this is now”.
7. Perspective about challenging yoga asanas
Asanas bring up many emotions and the type of asana can have a big influence. However we should remember that it is not the same for everyone.
Forward bends force us to look inward at ourselves;
Backward bends are connected with the attitude of embracing life and all its challenges;
Twisting positions relate to managing and untangling the knots and twists of life;
Inverted asanas turn the world upside down giving us another insight into our life; and
Balancing postures are most affected by our emotions. If we are not feeling balanced in mind, then it is very difficult to balance in one of these positions.
We have to embrace the challenge by surrendering to our fears if we are to relax in each of these positions.
See you on the mat, John ( with help from Elisa )