Contribution is the only source of fulfillment. That, essentially, is the whole point of this piece. If you’d like to stop here, you may; if you’d like to know why, let me explain.
Ask yourself this: what is the definition of having ‘made it’? For most people, it’s reaching retirement, comfortably relaxing on a beach, or some variation of a worry-free state.
While this is the common reverie towards the epitome of success, in reality, it couldn’t be further from the truth. How so?
It is not unfair to say that along with genuine success comes a sense of strong fulfillment. Fulfillment is a by-product of finding deep meaning in one’s life, and meaning results from solving problems that matter to us.
And in any problem-solving attempt lies a struggle. By nature, we crave the thrill of the struggle.
We desperately require problems - albeit preferably good problems – to solve.
Otherwise we render ourselves unneeded, and there’s arguably no worse emotional state to experience than futility. Our minds are seeds to which struggles are the soil nutrients that allow our minds to sprout. That’s precisely why desolate minds often manufacture problems; they find fulfillment in generating the corresponding solutions.
Yet struggle, without progress, is at the very least unpleasant; rather, what we yearn for is ‘productive’ struggle.
Productive struggles are the moments of problem-solving in which we find progress and grow. It’s not only about the final result, but about the incremental results along the way; it’s about the small everyday wins.
To find progress in struggles is to contribute – some’how’ and in some’way’ to some’one’, some’place’, or some’thing’. And that is how we should perceive of fulfillment: engaging in productive struggle.
“How am I contributing and what difference am I making?” We must each find – and help each other find – a convincing answer to the question; otherwise, there is little drive to exist.
Rather than pursue the long road towards short-lived retirement, pursue the road of productive struggles towards lifelong fulfillment.