There are several cornerstones that represent success in western society: money, houses, cars, education, marriage, offspring, awards, physical prowess, looks, etc. These cornerstones are a great place to start, but do they ensure fulfillment? No, not at all. Contrary to widely held belief, fulfillment is quite different from success. For one thing, success is a temporary state that usually leaves us wanting more. Like the hit of dopamine that comes from scrolling social media -- we get addicted to the stuff that represents success in our minds. With fulfillment, on the other hand, there is a richness of spirit that is deeply seated, permanent, and more satisfying than the fleeting notion of success. Being alive and healthy are both baseline measures of individual success. Fulfillment, on the other hand, takes success to another level, because it resides at the center of our experience, and it involves something much greater than just measurable quantities of things.
At the end of the day, your opinion is the only one that matters when it comes to what fulfillment represents for you. Recognizing this truth is an epiphanic moment for most because the idea of toiling away one’s life for the right to be considered “successful” can seem rather empty once attained. Is it worth it? Is there more? There’s got to be a better path to follow than that of the billionaire who lives on the hill but is estranged from his family and can’t trust a soul. He may live in a mansion, but it’s come to symbolize a tomb for the living. And while he may be successful by traditional standards, he feels very alone and unfulfilled.
In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship. I remember listening to their coach, Rick Carlisle’s interview after the final game. He talked about how this team was different from any he had ever coached. When pressed to articulate what he meant, he produced a one-word explanation that really resonated with me: “Chemistry. This team had great chemistry. Sure, they had exceptional skills, impeccable timing, and had one another’s backs, but chemistry was the key ingredient that really made them great.” Carlisle’s players and coaches genuinely loved one another, and they laid it on the line night in and night out.
When Coach Carlisle was asked to explain his feelings in the moment of winning the championship, he said, it was a feeling of “fulfillment, and that such a feeling is quite rare.” Carlisle had the beautiful experience of true fulfillment, which is a selfless endeavor that involves inspiring others and seeing others reach their full potential. That’s the key. True fulfillment materializes by way of positively impacting others, the deep relationships we build, and the sacrifices we make for the greater good. Be the person who takes the initiative to consistently connect through meaningful interactions that lead to greater outcomes than any one person could achieve alone.