Balancing your family's needs with your own fulfillment can be challenging. Daily life (you know: cooking, cleaning, working, paying bills and ironing your superhero cape) can sometimes get in the way of nurturing the qualities you need to lead a balanced life. Identify which of these qualities you might be lacking and give them a little TLC to start working toward a happier, more fulfilled life.
Hope. Hope is believing that things are possible even when the evidence is uncertain. Hopeful people have a general belief that even when things are going badly, they will work out as well as can be reasonably expected. They have an instinctive sense that worrying about all possible things that could go wrong is a never-ending exercise, and that most of the time the bad outcomes one imagines never occur. You can strengthen your sense of hope by changing your attitude in several areas. First, start thinking that bad things can happen for you rather than to you. A relationship breaks up but a better one comes along. You lose one job only to get your dream job later. When things happen for you, you're never a victim. Second, view bad times as temporary. While some losses may be permanent, negative emotions (anger, grief and so on) can be replaced with more positive ones (acceptance, gratitude, optimism). Finally, ask yourself, "How would I act right now if I felt more hopeful?" Then start acting that way and see what happens.
Zest. Zest is feeling excited and energetic about life. A zestful person has hope. But a zestful person has the energy to make what is hoped for a more likely reality. Zest is understandably diminished in parents who are exhausted from their daily lives. Zest can improve when you make sure that you don't overdo your strengths of character, only to get worn out later (that is: A person with compassion—a strength—may over-give and feel drained or unappreciated—a weakness, or parents dedicated to their kids—a strength—may lose sight of their own needs while making sure their kids never go without—a weakness). Spontaneity can be a strength; it allows you to take advantage of the moment. But overdone it can lead to recklessness. "Thinking things through" is a strength. But if taken to extremes it can cause excessive worry, hesitation and paralysis. Make a list of your strengths and examine the ways you stretch those strengths to the point where you lose energy. When one's strengths have been overused and overtaxed, fatigue trickles in, zest trickles out and fulfillment falls flat.
Curiosity. A curious person is intrigued by possibilities and assumes there is always more to do or to learn. A curious person is more apt to question his attitudes and beliefs, rather than accept them at face value. So a less curious person might say, "I don't have time to take a course at college," whereas a more curious person might ask, "Can I find a college that will let me take that course online?" A less curious person might say, "I don't think my boss would let me take some nights off to join a choir," whereas a curious person might say, "Maybe I can negotiate with my boss for more flexible work hours." Improve your curiosity toward life by listing all the things you would like to be able to do. Then write out ways you can make those things happen without worrying about all the obstacles. (Most obstacles are in your head, not in your life.) Chances are you will start to see possibilities you never realized existed.
Love. The more loved you feel and the more you act lovingly, the more fulfilled you will feel. Love is not just about the emotion called love, but the ability to maintain close relationships with people who matter to you. When relationships are strained or even absent (no friends nearby), one's sense of fulfillment can take a hit. For the next few days make a conscious effort to act more lovingly and kindly to everyone you meet—from relatives to the check-out clerk. Smile more, give a compliment, do a small favor, overlook something annoying, make a friendly phone call. In a short time you will be astounded at how warm and loving your life can seem.
Courage. Courage is not fearlessness. It is the willingness to take some personal risks despite uncertainties and the chance of failure. When we set our sights on something small and safe, our chance of success increases but our sense of fulfillment will be shallow. Ask yourself, "If I were a little more courageous, what positive thing would I attempt to do that I'm cautious about now?" Then take the leap.
A sense of humor. You don't need the skills of a stand-up comedian to appreciate the funny side of life. A person with a sense of humor (not the mean, sarcastic kind of humor) takes life lightly and not so seriously. For one day, force yourself to smile in any situation that makes you aggravated or impatient. Keep smiling until you can detect something humorous about the situation. Surprise! Your sense of humor will take giant leaps forward.
Gratitude. A grateful heart is humble. That is, there is no sense of entitlement. Entitlement always leads to anger and frustration when the things we feel entitled to don't come about. A grateful heart appreciates whatever comes its way. It is easy to feel fulfilled when you appreciate what you already have. Instead of saying, "I want to be fulfilled," say instead, "I am fulfilled." Then search for the many ways you do feel fulfilled. Once you fully appreciate what is already fulfilling in your life, you may discover that you have less of a need for more fulfillment than you previously thought.
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