A person with an open hand.

A 5-Minute Exercise to Find Your Fulfillment

To get your sense of purpose back, reacquaint yourself with what matters.

I set a new goal. One I had never considered setting before. But now that I have, I’m surprised it took me this long to come up with it. The goal: go on a full-day adventure at least once a week. Before I explain why I set this particular goal, allow me to share the context.

Last year I gained 35 pounds. That’s a whole other article in itself. That said, in working to bring that number back down to where it was before, I’ve made a lot of changes. A lot of changes. Changes like the foods I eat, when I eat those foods, the exercises I do, and a slew of other factors. And one of those other factors is managing boredom. Because after months of tweaking my system, I realized something: I binge-eat when I’m bored.

This wasn’t the revelation. This was just the stone that, once uncovered, showed me the real problem at hand. I didn’t know that yet though. So I directed my attention to what I could see. The stone itself. I set out to never be bored again. I set new goals to be physically active as well as to create something each day. And it worked. Kind of. But not enough. Something was missing. Some deeper part of myself wasn’t getting the attention it needed.

And then I went on a trip.

 

An Unquenched Thirst

During that trip, my desire for overindulgence was severely less. The reason being that I was in a new place. I was exploring each day. It was stimulating. And thus that part of my brain was being lit up in the manner it so desired.

I got home. Quickly, the old cravings returned. But at least now I knew I was onto something. Some deeper part of me wasn’t being addressed. And because of that, my brain was reaching for a quick fix. It pined for sugary sweets. I didn’t know how to solve the problem. The good news was I was aware a problem existed. Something that simply going for a run or drawing a maze wouldn’t fully resolve.

I yearned to explore.

Pre-pandemic, I traveled often. Now, obviously, not so much. Yet for all my introspection and writing, I didn’t think much of it. I just figured that side of me, the adventurous side of me, would be shelved until something changed. But that’s not how part of your self operates. You can’t ignore an aspect of who you are. When you do, you end up binge eating to unconsciously fill a desire you didn’t know you had.

 

Adventure Is Afoot

Kate Wetherall loves to explore. It’s part of who she is. And when that part of herself is limited, she becomes sullen. It’s clear to anyone around her. Her mood changes. Exploration is a major aspect of her identity. In The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, Kate works with her friends to save the world. Each friend has something to contribute. And without each friend doing what they do best, they don’t stand a chance. Prevent Kate from exploring and you’re in trouble.

Prevent me from exploring and I’m in trouble. Well, more like my blood sugar is.

I had turned over the stone but neglected to look at what lay underneath. I was so worried about addressing the rock that I never considered digging deeper. Now I have. And the answer is obvious. Part of me is being neglected. When travel stopped I didn’t think much of it. But, like trying to plug a leak in a dam to only have several more appear, I wasn’t solving anything. In fact, I was ignoring the leaks altogether.

Thus, when the adventurer-side of me wasn’t addressed, I reached for the donuts.

 

Balancing the Scale

You have more to your life than just work and not-work. You have a spouse, your mental health, a home, finances, a love for learning, children, and so much more. If you neglect one area, you become unbalanced. Your career may begin to thrive but your anxiety may run rampant. You and your spouse may be really strong, but the relationship with your daughter may be icy. When you shelve a part of who you are, problems arise.

The greater the problems, the less fulfilled you feel. The less meaning you experience.

Until those problems are addressed, you will continue spiraling. Until you know yourself, the problems will be vague and ambiguous. To live a full, meaningful life, you must address your whole self. Not just the painter-side of you but also the money manager. Not just the athletic-side of you but also the entrepreneur.

 

A 5-Minute Exercise

For the next five minutes, write down every aspect of who you are. List out every single category. Every part that makes you, you. For example:

  • Adventure,
  • Career,
  • Community,
  • Finances,
  • Friends/family,
  • Home, etc.

Next to each of those categories, write a short sentence explaining what fulfillment in that area looks like to you. For instance, home may be: A place that you can return to after your many travels and feel happy, safe, and loved. Do that for each category. Many of these answers will come to you right away. For the ones that don’t, put TBD and come back to them some other time.

This activity won’t immediately solve your problems. However, it will show you what fulfillment looks like to you across every aspect of who you are.

And that is powerful information to have.

 

Go Further

Once you know what fulfillment looks like to you, start setting goals in that direction. For instance, regarding the aspect of myself called Knowledge, fulfillment for me is: To be constantly growing and learning from books, courses, and audiobooks.

Knowing what I want, I’ve since set a goal towards that aim. Namely, to complete at least two books a month. I’ve done this for nearly two years now and have finished, on average, one book a week. Doubling my goal. I love learning and this goal has proven to address this aspect of myself perfectly.

But what of adventure? If this concept works so well, what’s with the binging? Let’s return back to what I touched on earlier in regards to shelving. When the world changed, I put that aspect of myself on hold. What I didn’t realize then was that you can’t do that. You can’t ignore a part of who you are. Now that I am aware of this painful lesson, I’ve set a goal to address it. Is this new adventure goal the solution I’ve been looking for? It’s much too early to tell.

However, I am optimistic. It feels like a step in the right direction.

 

Moving Forward with Fulfillment

There is more to your life than just work and not-work. When you neglect parts of yourself, things begin to spiral. The dam begins to leak. To prevent that and in turn foster a fulfilling life, do the exercise mentioned in this article. It only takes a few minutes to set up initially. Although, my bet is that once you start, you won’t want to stop. You will feel excited.

For your reference once more, here are the steps for the exercise:

  1. List out every aspect of who you are.
  2. Write a short sentence for each aspect explaining what fulfillment looks like to you in that area.
  3. Bonus: Set goals to address each of those aspects.