There are infinite versions of what it means to be happy. Some would define it as a prolonged state of satisfaction and well being in which you have achieved all your goals.
Others might say that happiness is found in fleeting moments that happen when you are walking your dog, cooking, laughing with your kids or sunbathing. For others, it has to do with an inner peaceful state, living the present with balance and positivism.
Others responses would mention love, success, freedom, fulfilment (aha!) or material possession.
I could go on and on about what happiness is but to specify, based on scientific studies, I conclude that happiness is a temporal state in which we feel positive emotions.
Happiness is intangible and elusive. It seems that we always run behind it, unable to catch it.
Ok. So what does it mean to feel fulfilled? It seems to have more consensus than happiness, but it is interesting to know exactly what is behind this sentiment. In his hierarchy of human needs, Maslow placed fulfilment at the highest level.
Overall, feeling fulfilled involves reaching a goal that means something important to us. But what kind of goals do we mean?
We feel fulfilled when we run a half marathon, have children, have a good social circle, graduate, etc.
But many of us refer to feeling fulfilled in the professional field. That is, we seek that our work contributes to something bigger than ourselves and that it has a positive impact on society. Sometimes it also refers to having a degree of independence in the professional activity we develop, by being a leader or an entrepreneur.
But the common denominator is that it has to be something we value, that holds meaning to us. For example, if we are working for a large multinational corporation who’s mission does not reflect our values, we will probably not feel fulfilled.
And what does feeling fulfilled mean to you?
Now that we have explored what happiness and fulfilment mean, we can analyse the relationship between the two.
Is it possible to be happy without feeling fulfilled?
It is theoretically possible to have temporary positive emotions without feeling fulfilled.
I remember, for example, I was not particularly fulfilled when I was a student and yet had many moments of happiness. Not everything that makes us feel happy has to do with fulfilment.
And is it possible to feel fulfilled without being happy?
Feeling fulfilled not only involves experiencing positive emotions. It includes a more comprehensive and realistic emotional range.
For example, I could be creating a business and feel fulfilled but experience feelings of stress, worry, low self-esteem and uncertainty.
Also, when we think of athletes, singers or actors who are fulfilled, we don’t assume they are happy all the time, right?
Although many of us can sometimes use the two terms indiscriminately, it is interesting to see that although they are not, they are certainly related.
Happiness is a big word that encloses many things. Given its sheer size, and its intangible and abstract component, it sometimes seems elusive to reach. Instead, focusing on fulfilment provides a more tangible and realistic approach. In my opinion, this is the reason we are focusing more and more on feeling fulfilled. Seeking happiness is not trendy anymore.
So happiness or fulfilment: what are YOU aiming for?