with guest Drew Manning #MakingBankS4E39

America was built on foundations of freedom and the ability to pursue our own personal dreams, unfettered by the religious or political views of others, and it has done an extraordinary job of achieving that reality. But for some reason, this American dream has one glaring problem that no one saw coming: millions of people across the country are achieving all the ostensible measures of success but report being unfulfilled and unhappy. Why? 

How can so many of us feel underwhelmed at the lives we currently have the opportunity to live, no longer threatened by so many of the challenges our ancestors had to face? 

Our minds are not necessarily well adjusted to living in times of sustained peace and prosperity. We achieved success as humans because we have brains that constantly look for and solve problems, not because we know how to achieve happiness. Evolution doesn’t care whether you’re fulfilled; it simply cares that you continue eating, sleeping, and mating. The fulfillment is up to you. 

So why are we unfulfilled, and what can we do about it? One answer, for many of us, could be in the choices we make both in and out of work. Let’s examine a few key areas. 

1. Meaningful Goals 

Getting rich or simply checking off milestones will inevitably leave you feeling empty. You need to feel connected to something bigger than yourself, to feel that there is a legitimate purpose to what you’re doing. 

Have you taken time to think about why you are doing the job you’re doing and whether it is a good fit not only for your talents but for your well-being? 

Both your job and the overall goal of your organization are important. You need to enjoy your day-to-day tasks and feel that you are an important, valued member of the team, and you also need to feel connected to the goal that your team is working towards as a whole. 

Teachers, for example, never have to wonder whether they’re doing something worthwhile. They may be overworked and underpaid, but teachers rarely succumb to the same feelings of unfulfillment that corporate drones like lawyers and marketers do. Their students rely on them, and they make a meaningful impact on their lives. Educating and bettering the lives of others is a meaningful goal that goes a long way towards building a lasting sense of fulfillment. 

2. Meaningful Time Outside Work 

One mistake that many people make is believing that fulfillment should come from their career and career alone. No matter how benevolent your goals are or how proud you are of what you do, your work will never be enough to create fulfillment on its own. You also need a life outside work in order to be well-rounded and happy. 

Do you have hobbies? How often are you taking time away from trying to achieve anything at all, and simply just being either alone or with friends, having fun? If you’re not getting enough of this time, try actively scheduling it into your week and even your day. This is especially important for entrepreneurs, who can’t leave their work at work. 

Another great idea is to constantly strive to learn and improve yourself, both within your field and in areas that are simply of interest. Read. Do creative projects. When we see ourselves improving, we gain a sense of self-confidence and happiness that we lose when we’re stagnant. Find areas you wish to improve in. Simply making the effort will often be enough. 

3. Meaningful Relationships 

Hopefully, it goes without saying, but just in case it doesn’t: you need to like the people in your life. That includes the people you work with and the people you have relationships with outside of work. 

One of the biggest threats that we face in the modern age – particularly among men – is loneliness. If we don’t feel connected to a real friend group that we can rely on for support and guidance, we have a real risk of falling into depression. 

If this sounds like you, the first step is to reach out to old friends. Send a message just to say hi. You might be surprised at how quickly people jump at the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend. Many have probably fallen into the same loneliness as well and could also benefit from simply hearing from you. 

Make this an area of importance in your life. Be intentional about building and restoring bonds. Without meaningful relationships, fulfillment is not possible. What’s the point of success if you have no one to share it with? 

4. A Meaningful Relationship – With Yourself 

Having relationships with others is not the end of it. You also need to have a good relationship with yourself. Are you spending time working on things that will make you happier? Are you making your own wellbeing a priority? This is, unfortunately, something that many people do not even understand, let alone get proactive about. 

The first area you need to focus on is your physical health. Exercise and diet are directly tied to your mental health, and without good mental health we can never hope to be fulfilled. If you’re not treating your body right, your mind will not be happy and may take it out on you in the form of bad habits that further harm your health, potentially creating a downward spiral. 

Taking time to care for yourself makes improving in the rest of these areas much easier. If you love yourself, people will be drawn to you, helping you create lasting relationships, and giving you something outside of work to draw fulfillment from. It then becomes much easier to get your career in perspective and determine if you feel connected to your why, or if a change is necessary. 

Fulfillment is not a byproduct of success; success is a byproduct of fulfillment. If you simply aim to make money and achieve a life that looks good on paper, you will never truly be happy; but, if you are first happy with yourself, your relationships, and the way you are spending your time, the success you desire will wind up finding you. 

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