You’re not in the position you want to be in. You’re constantly feeling unfulfilled, as if something is missing from your life.
If you find yourself in this position, rigorous self-analysis is the best place to start.
Before you set out on a new path, it’s important to examine the root causes that are contributing to your lack of fulfillment.
In this article, I’ll help you uncover why you’re feeling unfulfilled, and offer tips to help you infuse positive momentum back into your life.
#1: You’re Addicted To Cheap Dopamine
The things that you need to do to find meaning in life are boring. On the other hand, cheap dopamine is usually full of pleasure:
- Junk food
- Streaming platforms (Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max)
- Social media
Noticing a common theme between these things? They’re all low-friction behaviors that satisfy your desire for instant gratification.
In moderation, cheap dopamine isn’t too problematic. But if you indulge in it too much, you destroy the reward centers inside of your brain.
Ever wonder why it feels so damn hard to get yourself to just “do the work?”
It’s because your brain is used to pleasure without effort. To find pleasure in the right activities, you’ve gotta start limiting your exposure to cheap dopamine.
Here’s two practical ways to do that:
- Punish Yourself: You engage in bad habits because they’re rewarding. Change that by sending money to a friend/organization each time you engage.
- Environment Design: Make cheap dopamine harder to access by controlling your external environment. Unplug your TV after each use. Put your phone in another room while you work. Set time limits for distraction apps on your phone.
If you put fewer steps between you and cheap dopamine, you’ll be less motivated to turn to instant gratification when you need to buckle down and work.
#2: You Don’t Have a Plan
If you find yourself constantly asking the question, “Why do I feel unfulfilled?”, I have another question for you.
Do you have a clearly defined plan for how you’re going to change your life in the next three months?
Most of us have a general sense of what we want in life. But knowing what you want is only half the battle. You need a well-defined plan for actually getting those things.
Without it, you’re a pilot without a destination. If you feel like you lack clarity, here’s simple framework that you can adopt to map out your next three months:
- Write Down Your Goals: Make a list of 5-10 goals that you’d like to achieve over the next three months.
- Narrow Your Focus: Narrow down this list to the top two goals that will have the biggest impact on your life.
- Focus On The Daily Grind: Every day, create a “Win The Day” List. This list will contain four critical actions (two for each goal)
- Make Them Non-Negotiable: If possible, try to ensure that you knock out these two critical actions before anything else.
You don’t have to use this plan verbatim, but it should get you thinking about how you can bring more clarity to your day. With this level of clarity, you’ll find it easier to start taking action to fix your life.
#3: You’re Not Prioritizing Keystone Actions
Another reason why you may be feeling unfulfilled is because you’re not focusing on keystone actions.
Every day, there’s many tasks that require your attention. Some of these tasks are unimportant, others are pretty important, and a select few are non-negotiable.
These non-negotiable tasks are your keystone actions. They’re the ones you’re most likely to put off, and also the most likely to lead to personal growth.
You’ll never find a sense of fulfillment in your life if you don’t consistently knock them out every day.
When you focus on the stuff that’s mission critical, you’ll be moving ahead at light speed while others slowly crawl towards their goals. So every day that you wake up, ask yourself the following question — which three actions will represent the greatest progress towards my goals?
This will ensure that you dedicate your attention to pursuits that have the greatest impact on your life.
#4: Lack of Patience
Most people judge their progress with an all-or-nothing mindset — Have I achieved my goals or not?
This is a very de-motivating way to look at things because it puts you in a constant failure state until you achieve your goals. You’re tying fulfillment to results that you won’t achieve for a long time.
When your goals seem too far away, try to internalize the following mindset and let it guide your daily life:
As long as I do something every day that moves me closer to who I want to be, I’m winning the game of life.
#5: You’re Not Paying Attention To Life
Oftentimes, feeling unfulfilled comes from an inability to focus. We’re always one click away from escaping the present, and it causes us to feel anxious and distracted without really knowing why.
Be honest with yourself and think about how you go through life:
- Are you always looking for additional stimulation when you’re bored?
- Do you check your phone or browse the internet every five minutes?
- Do you frequently switch between tasks and find it difficult to focus on one thing?
These are all signs you’re not taking in all that life has to offer. You’re going through life distracted and trying to escape boredom at all costs.
If you can train yourself to be present, life slows down. The anxious parts of your brain become less active. You feel more at peace, and you can take in more information.
I know that advice like “just be present” is a little abstract, so here’s a few practical scenarios where you can practice it.
If you’re sitting at home bored, don’t turn on Netflix for background noise. Find a productive task and immerse yourself in it.
If you’re standing in line at a coffee shop, don’t pull out your phone. Just look around and observe your surroundings.
If you’re going on a walk, take in the world. Don’t put your headphones in and block it out.
Get comfortable with silence and boredom, and you’ll find it easier to enjoy everyday life.
#6: Running From Discomfort
What situations do you run from on a daily basis? If you really think about this, you’ll notice a common theme — most of them involve discomfort of some kind.
You want to get in better shape, but you’re afraid of the pain of exercise. You want to work on your social skills, but you don’t want to have awkward interactions with strangers. You want to build a business, but you don’t want to put yourself through grueling hours of focused work.
Everything that you desire lies on the other side of discomfort. If you want to stop feeling unfulfilled, you need to make friends with it.
How can you start to make friends with discomfort? Well, the best place to start is through gradual exposure. Don’t start by attacking situations that are massively uncomfortable because you’ll burn out fast.
Instead, gradually train the muscle.
- Instead of forcing yourself to the gym for an hour, start with 5 minutes at home.
- Instead of forcing yourself into three hours of focused work, start with a 15 minute burst.
- Instead of forcing yourself to talk to 10 new people every day, start with one person.
Build your tolerance for discomfort day by day, and eventually you’ll start to thrive in it.
#7: You Lack Social Charisma
If you’re constantly saying “I feel unfulfilled,” then it’s possible that lack of social charisma is playing a big role.
Social charisma is one of the most valuable qualities that you can possess.
It makes you valuable to others because they’ll enjoy your company. It helps you excel professionally because you’re able to navigate tough conversations. It also leads to better relationships for that same reason.
If this is a weak point for you, I highly recommend you make it a primary focus on your life. Here’s a few suggestions on how you can develop this quality:
- Start More Conversations. We’re social creatures, so take the risk and force yourself to talk to strangers. You’ll hone your social intelligence, become a better conversationalist, and meet more people.
- Take More Risks. Find new situations that are unfamiliar to you and baby step your way into them. The more you put yourself out there, the more comfortable you’ll feel in your own skin.
- Own Your State. Be honest with people about how you’re feeling. If something bothers you, say it. If you feel nervous, say it. Don’t be afraid to drop your guard and tell people exactly how you’re feeling
#8: Your Job Is Killing Your Soul
Do you actually like what you do, or is it a means to an end?
You’re gonna spend almost half of your waking hours at work. Maybe more depending on what you do. If you dread every second of it, lack of fulfillment is almost unavoidable.
I get it; you’ve been told a million times to “just follow your passion.” Most people who say this don’t realize you have bills to pay and mouths to feed.
You can’t just quit your job and neglect these responsibilities. However, you can control the way that you use your time.
So if your your day job is killing your soul, ask yourself the following questions:
- When do I feel most productive?
- What kind of work makes time fly by?
- What kinds of topics have I always been naturally curious about?
- Given that succeeding in any field requires hard work, what kind of work can I force myself to do even when I’m not feeling my best?
These questions will get to what sets you on fire. Then, you’ll need to get honest about where you’re spending your time.
It doesn’t matter how busy your schedule is, I’ll bet that you can easily find an extra 2-3 hours to start plotting your escape.
If you work a 9-5, get up two hours earlier and block out that time for uninterrupted work. If your work starts earlier than that, save that work block for the morning hours.
If you care enough, you’ll find the time.
#9: You’re Not Facing Your Fears
Reluctance towards facing your fears could also be a primary driver of your lack of fulfillment.
Each time you don’t take action because you’re afraid, you move further away from the things you really want. But if you start facing fear every day, just a little bit, eventually you’ll start growing while it starts dying.
The best way to overcome fear is progressive desensitization. It’s a technique that psychologists frequently use to treat phobias, and it works because it attacks your fears in a systematic fashion.
Here’s what a sample progressive desensitization ladder might look like if you’re trying to overcome your fear of talking to strangers.
- Level 1: Walk outside and smile at strangers as they walk by.
- Level 2: Walk outside and say “hello” to strangers as they walk by.
- Level 3: Walk outside and ask people for directions.
- Level 4: Walk outside and give people compliments.
- Level 5: Walk outside and try to hold a 30 second conversation.
- Level 6: Go to a busy environment and talk to three new people.
As you become comfortable with each situation, you’re gradually breaking down your fear of starting conversations.
Now it’s your turn to try progressive desensitization! Come up with your own fear ladder using the framework above.
Start with situations that are a little scary, and then eventually attack the situations that terrify you. As you build positive momentum, you’ll make friends with fear instead of letting it consume you.
#10: A Refusal To Try New Things
Are you constantly chasing new experiences, or are you stuck in a routine that no longer fulfills you?
Embracing change and venturing into unfamiliar territory injects vibrancy into your life. Shutting yourself off from new experiences leads to a cycle of stagnation that’s really hard to shake.
If you start to push your boundaries, even in small ways, you will feel more alive and develop a sense of passion for life. Here are a few ways that you can accomplish this.
- Start Organizing Plans. Most people wait for life to come to them. Find opportunities to take the initiative and be the person who brings people together.
- Develop Hobbies & Interests. Find a hobby that you enjoy and set aside 15-30 minutes for it each day. This will help you develop shared interests with people, and give you more to talk about.
- Break The Habit Of Being Yourself. Go to a different coffee shop. Eat at a restaurant you’ve never been to. Call someone you don’t usually speak to. Do 2-3 new things each day that are a deviation from your normal patterns.
As Robin Sharma says, “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”
I hope that this article has armed you with several strategies to increase your sense of fulfillment.
As you begin the process of reinventing your life, just remember that consistency conquers all.
You’re not gonna fix your life in 30, 60, or 90 days, especially if you identify with most of the reasons we just talked about,
Forget about the timeframe. Just show up and get slightly better every single day, and you will experience massive identify shift as your actions compound.