On the Subject of Personal Fulfillment
Looking for the purpose of your life, or discovering it was there all along.
I use the term fulfillment because it is in the end, what we are all striving to achieve. In other words the successful completion of our life mission, however we envision it, that sounds the gong of achievement in our hearts and minds.
After all, it is when we feel we have achieved something we have set out to do, that we feel a sense of personal power and worth. Call it pride, self-esteem or self-satisfaction as you like.
It does not take a rocket scientist to observe the emotional glee on the face of a toddler, that arises from their own recognition and from others when they achieve something.
Whether it is taking their first steps, or clicking the buckle into their highchair harness, they will practice it over and over again to get that emotional ‘success rush’ each time they accomplish the task.
In the simplest of terms, they intuitively set out to accomplish something (i.e.) setting a near term goal, and through practice progressively acquire the ability to reproduce the behavior/action resulting in the desired outcome.
Depending on how well they perform the task (skill performance), the result can be either a state of self-satisfaction expressed as happiness, energizing them to attempt the task again and again, or they experience a state of frustration often displayed as crying and whining from the inability to ‘get it right’ (performance flow) the majority of attempts.
If failure is experienced too often, they will avoid or abandon any further attempts through self-motivation to achieve the task. They will have to be ‘influenced’ by an external force.
It seems we are naturally hard-wired to respond positively to our own successful achievement of something we endeavor to complete. We are naturally capable of positively charging our emotional state in total privacy. No one has to be there to praise us. We are able to be proud of ourselves by ourselves.
We Our Proud of Our Skills
Stop the world for a moment. Stop talking to yourself. Stop listening to others. Reflect on this; consciously recall an image/memory of something you have done or do now successfully. By this I mean something completed. Something accomplished. Something fulfilled.
Place ‘it’ on the workbench of your mind and examine it for a moment. Be sure the memory/object you have chosen is something you had to work at to achieve using an applied recipe or process, learned over time and repeatable such that you can do it again successfully.
Now examine the sensation within yourself when you successfully completed it. Did it feel good? Did it give you energy? Did you feel a sense of power? Were/are you proud of it? Would you like to feel that same sense of accomplishment/fulfillment again?
If the memory/object you chose was something you did that others also experienced, did they express a sense acknowledgement of your performance like ‘good work’, or ‘well done’. Did it make you feel proud?
The likely answer to all or most of these questions is yes, it did make you feel good about yourself. You experienced a positive state. Fix that ‘state’ in your mind as an object unto itself, as a result or ‘work product’ of this exercise. You can use it again as a tool in the future.
The Fulfillment Rush
Accomplishment through skillful action acquired through learning and practice is a central driver of all human performance. The ‘fulfillment rush’ (aka) exhilaration we get from accomplishment is addicting. It is what makes us climb mountains and look for higher ones to climb. It is what drives us, pushes, and pulls us to achieve in almost every endeavor human beings have imagined from the beginning of time.
At the core of our most primal nature is a singular, universally human attribute that influences every other need; pride in our individual performance. This ‘pride’ or self-esteem is a central pillar in the construction of our own self-image, and a critical factor influencing our impact on the families and communities we belong to.
Is Pride Its Own Purpose?
There is an enormous body of content in the world of personal development regarding the search for, and fulfillment of one’s life purpose. So much so that many of us have become locked into that mission as our primary or perhaps only reason for existence. Such that for some, if one does not have a stated purpose, one does not have a reason for being alive. This idea goes way back in human history embedded in the myths we live by.
But what if there were another narrative that focused our attention on discovering and developing that which made us proud of ourselves. An idea that sprang up early in our lives cultivating our self-esteem, derived from the conscious experience of our growing ability to perform something well, that is skillfully.
Again, let’s look at the toddler stage of our lives. A key characteristic we see is something we call curiosity. It is the natural behavior that automatically directs our attention (aka focus) toward something that attracts us. Instinctively we move toward it. We pick it up, put it in our mouths, examine it with our eyes and either fixate on it, or toss it and move on to the next thing.
Over time, patterns appear defining those things which we naturally tend toward. Ask young parents and they will tell you how they watch to see whether and when their young children begin to exhibit interest and preferences for certain things, and whether they exhibit signs of a ‘natural talent’ in the manner they interact with those things, and further, whether the child exhibits a positive state of happiness during the encounter.
If you ask the child the purpose of what they are doing, they will likely stare blankly back at you. Ask them whether they like interacting with the ‘thing’, and whether they are happy when they do ‘it’ well, and feel frustrated (unhappy) when it does not ‘work right’, they will likely understand the question on some level and answer ‘yes’, it makes them feel good about themselves especially when accompanied by smiles and ‘good job’ comments from their parents. They are experiencing a sense of pride.
The Pursuit of Pride
So ‘why’ we might ask, isn’t the pursuit of pride in oneself, (i.e.) self recognition of one’s accomplishments and growing ability/skill in one ‘thing’ or another, not a ‘life purpose’ in itself, and that we are born with it?
And what if our life purpose is driven by the need to cultivate the naturally arising pride (aka) self-esteem that manifests when we naturally move toward those things which interest us, and engage with those things repeatedly, and improve our ability to perform well and accomplish an end result we envision. This way of looking at personal development is a foundational teaching in the practice of craftsmanship across the world.
Contrast this to the idea that one must search for one’s life purpose as something we do not yet possess, undergo a challenge or struggle to identify the ‘true purpose’, then strive to acquire ‘it’.
The Pursuit of Craftsmanship
It has long been an established axiom; a universally accepted principle or rule observed in the transmission of knowledge to those learning a particular trade, occupation, or profession, that craftsmanship is concerned not only with the effect one’s work has upon oneself (i.e.) increasing pride or self-esteem in the quality of one’s own work, but equally the effect or impact of one’s work upon the society touched by it.
This outward looking, social ‘impact and reaction’ principal of craftsmanship is similar to the shared experience of the toddler and their parents when something is skillfully accomplished. Both parties experience a positive effect as a result of the skillfully accomplished work.
This duality of purpose taught as the ‘pursuit of craftsmanship’, has at its core the uplifting of the individual and the society within which the individual exists. Both flourish when the aim or purpose of the individual is to continuously improve the skillful execution of whatever endeavor they seek to undertake, with the equal goal of benefiting those around them with the finished work they deliver.
Taken in this light, we are all then essentially born with a built-in, natural purpose; to develop pride/self-esteem in oneself through skillful execution of our work, and continuous development of one’s skills.
The choice of which subject(s) one learns and practices over one’s lifetime, will shape the unique masterpiece that is your life.