When we’re in our twenties, we’re constantly striving, stretching ourselves, and growing by earning our degrees and landing our first jobs. Once we achieved our desired success, we’re supposed to feel content. When we don’t feel content, we sometimes start to wonder what’s wrong with us.
It turns out, that nothing is wrong with us. What is wrong is the expectation that, once we achieve our goals, we should be living happily ever after and that there’s no need to continue growing or setting goals.
In fact, growth is our natural state of being and when we forget that, we lose a hugely important component of a fulfilling life.
In 2006 and again in 2016, psychologists Carol Ryff and Burt Singer researched what factors contribute to having well-being and what they found was that there are six factors that are commonly found in people who had the highest levels of fulfillment and well-being:
- Personal growth
- Life purpose (defined as having meaning, a sense of direction, and goals)
- Positive and healthy relationships with others
- Mastery of the environment (feeling confident and capable that you can manage your own life and do your work well)
- A sense of autonomy
But the two factors that diminished the most as people reached their 30’s, 40’s and beyond were personal growth and life purpose. In other words, these things made us happy in our 20’s but we’re not focusing on them much as we get older.
But that decision not to grow has a cost. The researchers found that people with a clear life purpose and who continued to grow are more likely to have greater well-being and remain healthy and physically stronger throughout their lives.
When Is The Last Time You Thought About Your Life Purpose and Personal Growth?
When you’ve got young kids, a job, and a household to manage, it can feel like you’re doing really well just to feed and clothe everybody. Contemplating your life purpose, goal setting, and personal growth might seem too exhausting. But if you’re just surviving, then you’re not thriving. And if you’re not thriving, then you are robbing both yourself and the world of the opportunity to fully experience YOU as your best self.
The good news is that you can thrive even if you have a hectic work schedule and a busy family life, if you learn how to manage your thinking and the feeling of overwhelm. You can learn how to create time for yourself, to contemplate your life’s purpose, to think about what you really want for your life, and to make the changes you want to make to get there. You are not at the mercy of your circumstances—you are in control of what you do.
Your Happiness Is Important
It can be tempting to believe that, if you have achieved prior goals and have built an externally successful life, your current state of discontent is not really a big problem. Maybe you think of it as a “first-world problem,” as if the feeling of unhappiness were somehow less genuine just because all of your material needs are met. I disagree. I believe that lack of happiness and fulfillment in one’s work (and life) is a big problem, not only for the individual, but also for the world at large. That’s because the feeling of discontent drives negative actions that don’t do anybody any good. Stressing out, anxiety attacks, overeating, over-drinking, over-working, over-shopping, and disconnection in relationships are driven by the feeling of discontent.
In contrast, positive feelings drive positive actions that benefit both the individual and the world. Taking massive action, making a contribution, connecting, creating new things, and serving others are actions that are created by the thriving mind.
Thriving minds are the ones that create and innovate, that make the technological, scientific, business, legal, educational, and creative breakthroughs. They are the ones that will figure out to how to end poverty, how to stop global warming, how to inspire the next generation.
What do you want to contribute? What goals do you have that you’re not currently working towards? How do you want to grow? If you need help with this, contact me for a free strategy session.
Go forth, grow (as if your life depended on it), and bloom.