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April 9, 2020 · Opinion Pride Fulfilment

On pride and fulfilment

bonsai in lake

I think a lot about the feeling one gets after being productive. It's a distinct feeling; familiar and palpable. It elevates the mood like nothing else, yet it is as mysterious as it is elusive.

It's easy to assume that it's reliably generated from vocational productivity. But how often has an unusually busy day, with regards to production, still resulted in an empty feeling? Pretty often.

Maybe, then, it comes from doing something meaningful? But how often has fulfilment come from putting in a particularly gruelling couple of hours cleaning our homes? Again, pretty often.

Maybe it is effort that creates fulfilment? But, anyone who's had a corporate job, in a dull industry, will know that it's not effort either. Hours of effort can result in nothing but stiff necks and dark rings around the eyes.

So what gives? If fulfilment isn't a product of productivity, a friend of meaning, or the result of effort, what is it? And, importantly, what causes it?

Honestly, I've been kept up at night and occupied while brushing my teeth—which, for some reason, is the time when I do some of my most heavy mental liftings—mulling over this very question.

Then it struck me. Fulfilment is about pride. Sounds a bit superficial, doesn't it?

But think about it. When you're productive and proud of what you've produced, or produce something personally meaningful, or proudly complete an undesirable task, you create fulfilment.

So if fulfilment and pride are intrinsically connected, why do so many people struggle to achieve it? I think it's split between the assessment process and how we go about doing things.

Often, we assess our actions with external feedback. We strive for affirmations from people we love or respect, or anyone, to tick the "this is great" box. Yet, rarely do we establish standards for ourselves and work from there.

But people don't have consistent standards. If someone has had a bad day, or an insufficient amount of sleep, or is a little dehydrated, your assessment is going to be affected.

That's not to say that we don't suffer from these biases, but, with awareness, we have a better chance of managing them. Most importantly, we can create standards based on our own realistic expectations—whether they be higher or lower than other people.

Secondly, the way we go about a task—any task—is critical to creating fulfilment. And that appraisal needs to be relative to our own standards.

Thinking about fulfilment in this way shines a little light onto the cryptic teachings of Eastern philosophies and modern spiritual paradigms. Specifically, those that preach about being present and engaging in activities impeccably. Both emphasize a complete focus on what you're doing when you're doing it. If you're truly concentrating on what you're doing, you can't be assessing it. Ironically, this leads to far better quality.

And quality is a keyword here. When you put effort into doing something impeccably, no matter what it is, you're invariably going to be proud of it. It applies from essential duties like meetings to menial tasks like brushing teeth.

So it turns out that a happy, fulfilling life is quite simple. Take pride in whatever you do.