The people I work with often describe how their life is actually really good and so they find it hard to understand why they feel like something’s missing, something isn’t quite right or they aren’t as happy as they feel they could be.
My clients have usually achieved a lot in their lives. They are in very well paid roles or have accumulated a lot of personal wealth. They hold high level roles or have built successful businesses. They are usually happily married, often with kids.
This feeling of something being missing therefore seems at odds with their external reality and so can be quite hard to understand for them.
They’ve finally got what they thought were all the pieces of the jigsaw, but somehow it doesn’t quite fit together right.
A subtle feeling
This is subtle territory.
When they first come to me, people often struggle to articulate clearly or even understand exactly how they feel. They sometimes describe it as a ‘nagging’ or ‘gnawing’ feeling deep down they can’t really explain. It doesn’t make sense to them. It doesn’t seem logical.
“My work is going really well, I have a great wife/husband and kids, great friends, so why do I feel as if something’s not quite right? Why am I not happier?”
From a psychological point of view though, this makes complete sense.
It’ll all be better when …
The angst often lies in discovering that you‘ve got all you hoped for and it still doesn’t make you fully happy.
You get to a level of achievement, status or reputation you wanted, only to discover that this doesn’t feel as satisfying as you expected.
You get to a level of salary, security or personal wealth you hoped for, only to discover money isn’t the answer.
So much time spent chasing things that didn’t end up being the answer. No wonder something feels like it’s not quite right.
When you’re on your way to getting here, it’s easy to be so busy, focused and preoccupied with the next goal, the next achievement, the next issue – that you don’t have time or the headspace to really question or even pay attention to any nagging feelings of discontent, emptiness or lack of fulfilment. The assumption – often subconscious – is that it will all be better ‘when’.
When you’re less busy. When you achieve that next goal. When you sell the business. When you are financially secure. When …
But when you get ‘here’, and you still feel this way, many people simply move the goalposts. Often without even realising they’re doing it. They focus on the next thing. Or more or bigger.
Narrowing your life
Another reason for things feeling a bit ‘off’, is that many people have often been so busy that they’ve gradually eroded and sacrificed a lot of the discretionary parts of their life – the things that didn’t ‘have’ to be done. Things like quality time (being fully present) with good friends or family, hobbies, ‘time for me’ – things that fill them up, that bring them joy.
Over time, their lives have gradually become narrowed so that it becomes all about work, or perhaps work and family, or even work, family and health. But often precious little else apart from an annual summer holiday or occasional time away. This is often so subtle and gradual that you don’t really notice it happening. But it’s no surprise that something feels like it’s missing. Because it is.
It makes perfect sense
So when my clients tell me how great their lives are and that can’t understand why they aren’t happier, I tell them it makes perfect sense. And that the good news is you absolutely CAN feel better and happier and more fulfilled.
So long as you look in the right place.
Looking in the right place
The answers aren’t ‘out there’. It’s not about more or bigger – the right role or the right business to create or invest in. That’s not where the real answers lie.
It’s about YOU. It’s about figuring out what makes you feel fulfilled. What brings you joy or makes you feel alive. What gives your life meaning or purpose. And also figuring out what gets in the way or stops you from doing this. How you get in your own way. And then taking steps to build your life and work around what you truly want.
It doesn’t have to be a giant transformation (although some people choose to do it this way). For many people, it’s a case of taking steps in this direction and paying attention to how you feel and how your life changes as you do so.
Just like a ship that changes its course by just one degree – the smallest of changes – it ends up in a very different place. And so will you.
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