The Surprising Reasons You Don’t Feel Fulfilled (And What to Do About It)

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You’ve landed a dream job that sets you on the path toward living your ideal lifestyle. You are in an emotionally healthy relationship with a significant other (or you’re doing just fine on your own), and you adore your friends. And you are in the best physical shape of your life.

So, why don’t you feel completely fulfilled?

It’s a trend among seemingly successful adults in the Millennial generation. Having your nose so close to the grindstone as you work to achieve personal and professional goals, you may find that when you finally stand up, your successes didn’t reap the kinds of reward you had expected.

What’s causing these feelings of unfulfillment and, more importantly, what can you do about it? You may find the answers surprising:

Look inward
Like the generations that have come before you, Millennials were raised in a unique cultural environment. You were raised in a time of unbridled optimism. Kids were taught their possibilities were limitless, because at the time, your parents and other authority figures believed it to be true. This generation has been harshly characterised as entitled, but more accurately it’s a generation that values individual purpose and meaning. This generation values independence and following their goals over financial success. And all of these traits will serve you well as you continue to aspire to do great things throughout your life.

However, there is a downside. Millennials reportedly need more applause, praise and positive feedback for their performance at work than older colleagues. This trend is linked to helicopter parenting and being showered with accolades from parents, teachers and coaches. Though older, they still expect similar positive reinforcement from their work colleagues and managers.

And maybe that is the problem. The reason young adults are struggling to find fulfillment in their lives, regardless of their career success, relationships and achievements, is that they aren’t looking inward. If a mistake at work, a fight with a significant other or friend, or even an irritating commute can ruin your entire day or week, you are looking to others for fulfillment. Instead, take time each day to appreciate something you have created, whether it’s an act of kindness or a milestone you have reached.

Take a risk
If you’ve been following carefully laid plans your entire life, it might be time to take an unexpected turn. Maybe the career you thought was perfect for you isn’t as satisfying as you hoped. Don’t be afraid to take a critical look at a part of your life that you spend as much time on as you do your work.

Take a look at your personal life as well. If you have been training for a marathon and you are well prepared, but dread getting out of bed to train every day, maybe this is not a fulfilling goal. Instead, maybe you always wished you took ballet as a child but are afraid you will look ridiculous trying to pirouette in your 20s. Take the risk and sign up for a class. The point is, making changes to your life when things seem to be going well is a risk, but the reward could be a greater sense of fulfillment.

Practice being satisfied
How many times have you said, “If I could buy that flat…” or “If I could bike that much farther…”? or “If I could just have one good date…” The hard truth is, when you are busy thinking about all the things you want, you can’t appreciate what you have. The next time you find yourself focusing on what you don’t have, stop and consider the things you do have in your life that create happiness.  

Simplify
Being a digital native is a blessing. The technology we take for granted has given Millennials access to people, places and information no previous generation has had. But your access to hundreds of apps, infinite data and constant connectivity can also be overwhelming.

Try to be conscious of how much you overanalyse in a day, from comparing the calorie count of one fruit juice to another to deciding which show to binge watch on Netflix. Stop and appreciate the simple things – a walk through the park, a simple yes or no answer, or a quiet evening with some friends. Don’t make your life more complicated with unnecessary decisions.

Daria Meoli is a writer living in New Jersey. Although she is a member of Gen X, she actively refutes that she is part of the Slacker Generation. She loves running, spinning and yoga, but her favorite workout is chasing her kids. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr and email her at daria@dariameoli.com.