How to find fulfillment and see the glass half-full
During my Master’s degree, I was walking through the university library looking for books I needed for an essay I was writing.
Before I left, I happened across a book that caught my attention. Its shiny red typography stood in contrast against the stark, white background; I felt gravitated towards it for some reason.
The book was titled “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek.
Simon typically talks and writes in the context of corporate leadership, but you can’t help applying his advice to your own life and relationships.
Some of that potentially life-altering advice could help you as much as it has helped me. So here are five particularly meaningful quotes of his and ways to apply them in your life.
“Achievement happens when we pursue and attain what we want. Success comes when we are in clear pursuit of Why we want it.”
Think about this for a second. Have you ever achieved something that didn’t help you feel fulfilled? The most obvious example would probably be a promotion at a job you don’t or didn’t enjoy doing.
For me, it was completing my undergraduate degree in music. I felt achievement and relief from having completed the work, but I didn’t feel particularly successful when I finished.
The primary reason for that in this quote, I didn’t know why I wanted to do that degree; I just thought I had to.
In contrast, think of a time you did feel fulfilled by a job, project or even a relationship. Did that fulfillment come because not only did you achieve the results you wanted, but you also knew why you wanted them?
Next time you’re thinking about taking on a new personal project or a new role at work, take some time to think about why you want to do these things.
“If you want to feel happy, do something for yourself. If you want to feel fulfilled, do something for someone else.”
Inside, I think we all know there is a difference between ‘happiness’ and ‘fulfillment’.
Happiness can be short-lived and can often have external sources. I would argue material pleasure is the root cause of many societal issues we see today.
Fulfillment, on the other hand, is hard-won. A real sense of fulfillment comes from within when we know we’ve done good things. As a social, culture-driven species, it occurs when we help others and contribute to society.
I wrote an article recently about how I manage symptoms of depression. Perhaps not so coincidentally a significant part of my recovery came from volunteering my time to helping others.
There is a catch though, which Simon talks about a lot. That is, we have to do things for other people — our time and effort should be the currency, not money or empty promises.
Giving a few coins to a homeless person without a second glance is nowhere near as useful as sitting down and giving your time to listen to their troubles, or helping out at the homeless shelter.
“The primary ingredient for progress is optimism. The unwavering belief that something can be better, drives the human race forward.”
If you look at history, or even the present day, every great leader, whether that be business, political, philosophical, etc. has a ‘vision’ of the world in which they want to live.
Those who make an incredible impact on the course of human progress have that unwavering belief in their vision. Those people also know with absolute clarity the reasons they want to achieve their vision.
Even if you don’t think you’re destined to be a human-life-altering leader (don’t worry, me either), you can still look at this and reflect on your endeavors.
Did your last project fail? If so, think about your attitude or fear of failure, it might have had a hand in causing that failure.
If you were optimistic in yourself and your abilities, or even better, in the people around you to support you, do you think you still would have failed?
Your mindset has a significant impact on your success or failure; if you believe you will fail, you will. If you honestly think you will succeed, the chances are higher you will.
“There are two ways you can see the world: you can see the thing that you want, or you can see the thing standing in the way of what you want.”
Simon gives this piece of advice while telling a story about when he and a friend finished running a race in Central Park. At the end of the event, a sponsor was giving out free bagels.
When he suggested to his friend that they should get a bagel, his friend replied: “ahh the line is too long.”
I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard that phrase — being British and loving orderly queues and all.
However, it is a profound lesson on perspective, the classic glass half-full or half-empty. Some people will see the thing they want as their north star, their guiding light. While others will just see the distance and hurdles, then lose sight of what they want altogether.
He expands further on this point by telling us how people who always see their goal, the obstacles getting in the way become less significant. Whereas if we focus on those obstacles, we become overwhelmed by the challenge ahead of us.
So if you have a goal, instead of continually thinking about the things in your way of achieving that goal, just focus on the goal itself. Life has a funny way of working out when you do that.
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
There are a few things to unpack with this quote, but in essence, it is the culmination of the other quotes I have highlighted.
The first part, “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it,” is pretty much the driving point of Sinek’s books Start With Why.
Again, the context of the quote itself is corporate leadership and management. People won’t want to work with or for you if you don’t have a clear vision or motivation for achieving your goals (which should be about helping others achieve something).
Let’s flip that on its head and make it about the individual in society, instead of a corporation. You can use the same philosophy with personal goals and relationships.
People don’t like to be friends with people whose motivation for friendship is unclear, or even worse for personal gain. Great relationships are founded on not what you do together but more about why you do those things together.
The second part of the quote “and what you do simply proves what you believe,” I find it is another way of saying the more common phrase “actions speak louder than words” dating back a few hundred years.
You can tell a lot about a person by what actions they take towards their goals. If you don’t make little to no action at all, it shows you don’t believe in the words you say.
If you do, your actions will show it.
Simon Sinek is an optimist through and through. His values show through the work he does in his writing, speaking and coaching. You can tell he doesn’t just talk the talk. He lives by his words.
Having read the book “Start With Why” and listened to his talks, I’ve got to say I’m a converted optimist. And boy does it feel good.
But even if you feel still feel a little more like a glass-half-empty type of person, you can always challenge yourself with these thought-provoking tips:
- If you want to feel successful, be clear about why you’re doing the thing you’re doing.
- If you want fulfillment in life, help other people.
- If you want to progress, you have to believe you can make progress.
- Always try to see the goal, not the obstacles.
- Don’t just tell people what drives you, show them.