I’ve been life coaching professionally for the past 7 years now. If you don’t know about coaching…it’s a terrifically fun job of partnering with people to help them create a more fulfilling life for themselves. In fact, the first and most foundational question that I ask my clients to explore is this: “What is it to have a rich, full life?”
Have you ever asked yourself that question? “What is it to have a rich, full life?” It’s worth taking some time to think about.
In the 7 years I’ve been doing this work, what’s become increasingly fascinating for me is noticing the huge gap between how people typically answer that question and what we as coaches know actually creates true fulfillment in life. See, contrary to what Hollywood or Wallstreet would tell us, lasting fulfillment has nothing to do with having money, or comfort, or pleasure, or having a really nice house, or living in a nice neighborhood, or having a bunch of stuff. The best that those things can do is give us a sense of short-term gratification. They can make us feel good for a short while, but it doesn’t last, and the more you try to pursue those things as a means to fulfillment, the more diminishing returns you get.
Being truly fulfilled means having this deep, abiding sense of peace and rightness about your life. It’s this sense that you are living the life you are supposed to be living, and you are fully alive in the midst of it all. As any good coach will tell you, achieving that kind of fulfillment doesn’t come from pouring “stuff” into your life, but rather from surrendering your life to a Power and Purpose that is greater than yourself. The greater the level of surrender, the greater your sense of fulfillment.
This is not a new idea. Great thinkers throughout history have pointed to this principle of surrender as an essential truth of life….several even in the last hundred years. The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925, described it this way:
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
A few decades later another Nobel Prize winner, theologian and philosopher Albert Schweitzer reflected the same sentiment when he said:
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Even Kierkegaard, the great Christian philosopher of the 19th Century said,
“The thing is to understand myself. To see what God really wants me to do. The thing is to find the idea for which I can live and die.”
It’s not about the stuff, or the fame, or the power those things can bring. It’s about something much bigger than any of that…and much more beautiful. As Thomas Merton said,
“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair; but ask me what I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”
So what’s your “one thing”? What’s the Power and Purpose greater than yourself that you have surrendered your life to? Share your thoughts in the comments.