By special guest writer Kristie Santana, founder of National Coach Academy. With nearly 20 years of experience, she is a Master Certified Coach and coaches clients from around the world on finding balance in their professional lives.
Ask 10 people what they really want in life, and 9 times out of 10, you’ll get the same answer: “I just want to be happy.”
When you dig deeper–and as life coaches, we often do–you’ll almost always discover that happiness is, in fact, not enough. Most people seek something else, as well–a deeper meaning, an answer to the fundamental question “Why?” In other words, a purpose.
Most people don’t realize it, but what they actually want is to fulfill a purpose–sometimes even at the expense of feeling happiness in the moment. Let’s explore these two ideas and try to understand what they have in common, as well as why they are two very different feelings.
Happiness is Fickle
When I was first learning how to be an effective life coach, I assumed that happiness was the ultimate mission everyone was on, and my job as a coach was simply to help my clients attain that elusive feeling. But what I quickly learned is that most of my clients felt happiness all the time. The problem, it become clear, is that my clients lost that feeling as quickly as they got it.
Happiness, it turned out, was fickle. Here today, gone tomorrow. And even more importantly, this was completely normal. Absolutely no one is happy all of the time, so helping my clients reach a state of permanent bliss wasn’t the answer.
The answer was fulfillment. Purpose. Unlike happiness which came and went depending on the battles of the day, fulfillment was more resilient. It was able to withstand bad news and bad days.
Fulfillment turned out to be the real goal my clients were chasing all along. And it was my job as a coach to help them get there.
A Real World Example
Let’s imagine two people: Jeff and Julie. They’re both 25 years old, and they both work at a law firm.
Jeff was pressured by his family to become a lawyer but he has no real interest in law. He spends most of his day staring at the clock, waiting for 5PM so he can meet his friends at the basketball court. His weekends are full of exciting adventures. That is, until Monday morning dread hits and it’s back to clock-staring again.
Julie works at the same law firm, and she’s incredibly passionate about her work. She specializes in representing underprivileged communities and routinely works pro bono in cases she feels strongly about. There isn’t much free time in her schedule for partying, but that’s just fine with Julie. One day she dreams of creating her own law firm that works exclusively with poor, inner city clients.
Both Jeff and Julie are happy. Jeff is happy because his time off is filled with new adventures every week and he’s the life of the party everywhere he goes. Julie is happy because she works her dream job and is incredibly passionate about her work.
If you had to choose, who would you rather be? I’ve worked with enough clients to know that practically 100% of those people who said “I just want to be happy” would choose to be Julie.
It’s simple. Jeff is happy. Julie has purpose. Julie is fulfilled. And that fulfillment brings her happiness.
Fulfillment isn’t as easy to explain as happiness, which probably explains why the word “happy” is so ubiquitous in our language. But meaning and fulfillment are truly what most people are after. And my personal fulfillment comes from helping my clients find theirs.
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