I had an interesting conversation with a colleague today about the difference between happiness and fulfillment. We specifically discussed the purpose of money when it comes to both. I thought I would write a quick article on my lunch sharing the gist of our discussion.
What Part Does Money Play in Happiness and Fulfillment?
Make no mistake. You can buy a lot of personal happiness with money. If you had a million dollars, cold-hard-cash, you could take a vacation, eat at amazing restaurants, and participate in whatever form of entertainment (legal or illegal) to your heart’s content. And you would definitely feel happy the entire time.
But what happens after that initial euphoria is over? What are you left with?
The same goes for security. You could spend your whole life building a secure nest-egg for yourself with all that cold-hard-cash. And when you retire, what then? What do you have to show for your life other than the fact you are secure for the rest of it?
Having recently celebrated my 36th birthday, I couldn’t help but reflect on what would happen when I turn 50. I have actually done some research and have come up with the following 3 scenarios, which I shared with my colleague. (These scenarios are from a male perspective, but female readers can probably extrapolate to reflect their own gender.)
Scenario 1: Settling for the Same Ole’ Same Ole’
Some people simply shake off turning fifty or they have a mid-life crisis. Maybe the kids are all grown up and out of the house and you don’t recognize your spouse any more. Maybe you go buck-wild, buy a Harley, have a strange “sugar-daddy” relationship and take up some obscure hobby that involves chemical abuse or putting your life at risk. Or, if you’ve been fairly successful to-date, you sort of settle for the same ole’ routines and just keep moving on until the lights go out.
Scenario 2: Half Time Adjustment
I heard of this book called “Half Time” by Bob Buford. Haven’t read it and nor do I plan to at the moment. But I can imagine the premise. Basically at a certain age, you go into half time and adjust your game plan for real victory. Maybe your relationships and family are not optimal. Maybe you decide that your career needs to integrate social responsibility and philanthropy. Maybe it’s time to really embrace those dreams that were set aside and make the second half of your life really count. Either way, the half time locker room speech would be inspiring and awesome all around–a total game changer.
Scenario 3: Convergence
A few years ago, one of my mentors-at-the-time celebrated his 50th birthday. Someone at his party gave a speech about the concept of convergence. Convergence in this context is when all your life experiences, skills, resources, values and relationships all converge for perfect synchronization, setting the stage for the rest of your years. This is when maybe your responsibilities begin to shrink but your influence grows. This is when you start becoming the mentor and the wise sage. This is when you really start leaving your legacy. There are no major half time adjustments to be made. Everything just comes together into your ultimate vision and the rest of your life becomes about maximizing its generational impact!
Which scenario would you prefer? Seems obvious doesn’t it?
So how do we get there?
By pursuing fulfillment vs. just happiness.
I have said this time and time again. One of he greatest lessons I have been taught is happiness is not the point. Fulfillment is. Happiness is a byproduct of fulfillment. Yet our culture makes us believe we are designed for happiness. So what do we do? We then work our tails off in a never-ending cycle of financial systems to try and buy that happiness. We use the cold-hard-cash to make our problems go way, or we use it to self-medicate trying to ignore them completely.
Fulfillment is what happens when we synchronize our purpose, passions and potential. Fulfillment is what happens when we realize that pursuing our purpose, passions and potential will not always make us feel happy. In fact, when it comes to character refinement and taking responsibility, we often experience the exact opposite of happiness.
We can use money for temporal happiness or we can use it as a tool to accelerate our fulfillment. In the end, it isn’t about us. It’s about how we make an impact beyond ourselves and our own comforting happiness.
Happiness versus fulfillment.
Only you can make the choice.