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Success and fulfilment - are they the same?

Posted on 19 June 2017

I am making a big change to my own life at the moment – moving from a large house to a smaller riverside apartment. This move feels right for this stage in my life and it has got me thinking – what do we need to be truly happy in life? I think I am on a path to finding it for myself and, although I love my new home, it is not about that the bricks and mortar, it is about how I feel about myself and then how the things around me fit that.

Two words seem to sum it up. Success and fulfilment. I have success and I value it, but I have learnt it is not all there is in the world. A recent chance meeting with an old client of mine on the streets of Henley, where I live, got me thinking about this.

The client, who I will call Jo, came to my anxiety hypnotherapy clinic in Henley on Thames two years ago as she felt her life was stuck. Over a course of treatment which included Eye Movement Integration (EMI) and cognitive hypnotherapy she realised that she was not fulfilled and she needed to make some big changes. Jo was very, very successful indeed (she was a senior director of a multi-national company) but she felt she was not doing what she wanted with her life. She had a hobby she loved but had no time for, a husband she adored and only saw at weekends. She felt life was passing her by.

When she finished her sessions with me she thanked me for ‘helping her find where happiness lies,’ and she was laying the groundwork to move to a smaller company nearer to home which involved less travel. She was planning to spend more time with her husband and just relax and watch the world around her.

When we met up in the street, the first thing I noticed was how good Jo looked, she was bright and glowing with health and somehow lit up from the inside.  A thought jumped into my head, she looked fulfilled. And as I spoke to her it became clear that she had reached a true and deep happiness. Jo’s life had changed for the better even though to those who didn’t know her she might have seemed less ‘successful’. Her salary was much smaller and she no longer featured in the ‘Top Business Leaders’ lists. But her life was more aligned with her real aims.

I told her about my plans. My home move and how this was going to allow me time to do the things I wanted and enjoy both my work and my personal time more. Jo smiled at me, ‘You are taking your own advice,’ she said. And it is true. That is why I am feeling so fulfilled.

Why we confuse fulfilment and success

So, what is it with fulfilment and success and why are the two so often confused? We live in a world which values material success almost above anything else and success can bring some lovely things and great experiences. If you get a good deal of satisfaction from your work and your identity is bound up with your professional persona then professional success can be an important part of fulfilment, I would describe it as a subset of fulfilment for people like this -- and I would count myself amongst them. But even for people like us, the problem comes when we expect success to deliver everything.

Why do we make this mistake? It is because we have the myth of success bringing happiness drummed into us from a very early age? Chasing success is a habit most of us are taught from an early stage in life. Many of us have worked hard for success ever since we can remember: the best exam results, the great job, that new promotion, the bigger house.

For some of us there can be an underlying reason for this which is setting us up for disappointment. Perhaps our parents and other influential adults drummed it into us from the earliest days that success was all. In these cases, success can often be mixed up with love and acceptance.

The problem is we can achieve success and then find it doesn’t bring the happiness which we were promised. Hopefully, at that stage we stop and reflect and find what will bring us true or real happiness. Unfortunately, this often doesn’t happen, instead we chase the next success and the next reward believing that eventually we will have enough to make us truly happy. We are in an endless race which we cannot win.

This can be exhausting and ultimately dispiriting and it is often at this stage that people turn to therapists like myself for help. When clients work with me, we explore these issues through cognitive hypnotherapy and a range of other proven specialist therapy techniques. This helps clients move away from old beliefs and habits to a new way which aligns with their deeper nature, this can often be a profound process, as these beliefs are so ingrained.  This process will enable you to find goals and ways of being which truly align with what you really want out of life.

I often make an analogy with confidence to help clients understand the thing more clearly. I explain to many clients that true confidence in oneself is quiet, humble with nothing to prove.   A brash appearance of confidence comes from insecurity and uncertainty about oneself. true confidence is quiet, fulfilment is the same - quiet yet profound

Fulfilment is far bigger and greater than success. It is about an understanding of what is important to us in life whatever that may be. It is quiet, yet profound. There is nothing brash or noisy about it. It is a quiet happiness.

Once you have found it you will feel good at a very deep level. Put simply, it is understanding what we enjoy. Often this is small things, a walk, followed by a cup of tea in town is my favourite! Once we understand this it is important to make time to bring those elements in to our lives.

That’s all for this week, I am off to enjoy my new riverside home, then a stroll into town and a cup of green tea.

Fiona Nicolson on Google+

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