The three problems ambitious women have when creating a fulfilled life are:
- Working so hard and fast that they never take time to evaluate what they truly want, only to realize years later that they may have picked the wrong path.
- Working hard to fit the expectations in front of them that they fail to leverage their natural strengths because they come so easily to them that they never thought that they were that special.
- Not being able to talk about their dissatisfaction when it arises because “at least I’m not homeless/ starving/ etc.” or “I know I should be grateful,” when really a death of the soul may be happening which is one of the most terrifying dangers a person can undergo.
It’s not our fault that these problems arise, it’s all too easy to get swept up in accomplishing the next sexy accolade, never taking time or having a support system to help you truly evaluate what path is best for you, especially because we have almost zero cultural conversation around how to choose a path that fulfills you.
As an ambitious woman in a capitalist culture, we’re conditioned to measure our worth by our productivity and list of accomplishments. We work twice as hard to get the same recognition, squeeze ourselves into a personality that will be deemed legitimate enough to be taken seriously, and stress out if we spend any time that’s “unproductive” or doesn’t move us towards our goals, motivated forward by the approving comments of peers and family: “Wow, I don’t know how you do it all,” or “You’re so impressive!”
This leaves little to no room to get honest with our psyches and evaluate if the path we’re on is indeed the right one for us.
Of course there’s always the radical option to quit your job, travel the world, work in an ashram, have sex with improbably lovers, and “find yourself.”
… But the percentage of women who will actually take the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ route is infinitesimally small, so how do we find ourselves without losing ourselves first?
By following this simple formula.
1. Identify the strengths that come most naturally to you.
As simple as that sentence is, this can be the most challenging task of all. We’re taught to ‘work on our weaknesses’ and that success comes through grinding, so if it’s not hard, we’re probably doing something wrong.
This could not be further from the truth. The truth is that when we re-orient our livelihoods to capitalize on our natural strengths, we are able to get a whole lot done faster without working as hard. We have fun while working, are motivated to do the difficult tasks that grow us because we enjoy the process, move further forward quicker because it’s easier to get more done in a shorter amount of time, and rarely- if ever- encounter burnout.
Go through these questions/ activities to gain extreme clarity on what those strengths would be.
- When was a time that you were completely in ‘flow state’- You loved what you did, had fun as you worked, and felt most ‘like yourself’? What was good about that situation? What wasn’t so good?
- What is your favorite compliment to receive and why? This will show you what it looks like for you to feel fully “seen.”
- If someone were to write an article about you (or your business or your career) a year from now in the New York Times, and you were to be completely blown away and humbled by what they had to say about you, what would it say? What type of review would leave you feeling fully satisfied that you are indeed living in your purpose and making a difference doing it?
- Ask your family, friends, and social media following what they see in you. This can be terrifying to do, but you can make it playful: “Hey friend! I’m doing a little research for how I present myself at work- Do you mind telling me what you see as my biggest strengths? If I were going to be an expert at one thing, what do you think it would be?” Again, this can be scary but if you force yourself to do it you just may be shocked at the results!
2. Apply those strengths to the cause/ people that you care most about.
The second half of fulfillment is that we must use our gifts to make the world a better place. When we help others, our brains release positive chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine that tell us ‘Yes! More of this!’ — We are literally wired to be helpful to others.
So, choose your cause/ group:
While I’m sure you want to help everyone on the planet achieve world peace, what is the one cause and group/ type of people that you would be happy to devote yourself to for the rest of your life. What cause would leave you feeling satisfied? What group of people would you genuinely enjoy helping?
The beauty of this is that you are encouraged to choose your IDEAL situation. We only have one life (just in case you forgot for a second), so we might as well use it to create our ideal situation.
These two must work together because if we are making the world a better place without being recognized for our natural gifts leads to being overworked, under-recognized, usually leading to a loss of effectiveness, burn-out, and resentment.
Conversely, if we are recognized for our gifts without using them to make the world a better place, it leads to detachment and emotional isolation which lends itself to depression/ anxiety and definitely not feeling fulfilled.
Instead, pair your natural strengths to the situation that would be most intrinsically fulfilling to you, and you will not only greatly enhance your life experience and impact, but also greatly diminish or obliterate your chances of burnout, resentment, existential crises, and feeling insecure that you are indeed living your best life.
The best part about this is that it doesn’t need to entail a dramatic life change. Living a fulfilled life may only require that you change your job description, how you describe yourself on your resume or in your next interview, the hobbies you commit to, or how you structure your days.
No matter where you’re at, you got this. You deserve to live a soulful life and feel fulfilled regardless of what goes on in your life. Fulfillment is your birthright and your duty to your nuclear family and greater community. Invest the time to make these changes and you just might bear witness to miracles happening in your internal & external lives.