A 3-Step Guide To Fulfillment Through The Lens Of Positive Psychology

You do not have to wait for years to live a fulfilling life, says new psychological research.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | June 25, 2022

Leading a fulfilling life often involves chasing one's dreams, having the courage to do what feels most important, and feeling 'whole' under the pressure of social norms. 

Research suggests that fulfillment in life goes hand in hand with concepts such as legacy, life satisfaction, and happiness – making it a fundamental component of mental health.

While there's no shortage of self-development courses, concepts, and hacks that purport to offer a quick fix to attaining fulfillment in life, there is no substitute for science-backed advice. Fortunately, new studies in the field of positive psychology have begun to show promising results in support of the tangible cultivation of fulfillment in one's life. 

Here are three evidence-based ways to cultivate a strong sense of fulfillment, according to the latest scientific research.

#1. Practice gratitude to attain 'wholeness'

Research has demonstrated that gratitude is an essential component to mitigating objectification and enhancing individual wholeness.

There are many ways that people can invite more gratitude into their lives, such as:

  • Reflecting on the things that are most important: Taking a few minutes out of your day to reflect on what you most appreciate in your life (like a new favorite movie or book, or the opportunity to bask in the sunshine) is one pathway to gratitude.
  • Spending time in nature: Being in nature elicits strong feelings of gratitude and thankfulness for the environment and your ability to co-exist with nature.
  • Showing appreciation for others: Expressing gratitude for others is a powerful method of receiving it yourself.

#2. Develop a 'zest' for life

Do you want to live life to the fullest and make every day count? If yes, then it's likely that you have a strong 'zest for life.' Put simply, zest refers to the act of doing things wholeheartedly.

Although it may sound cliché, developing zest for life has been shown to positively impact many facets of psychological well-being, including fulfillment.

Research on zest and other character strengths show that integrating zest in your life can lead to higher life satisfaction, motivation, and gratitude for the people and things that surround us.

To heighten your zest, simply look at what interests and motivates you. What goals do you wish to pursue? What do you enjoy doing most? What are the things or people that give meaning to you?

While gratitude can help you feel whole, zest can empower you to do things wholeheartedly and bring your whole self to whatever you choose to pursue or accomplish. 

#3. Take control of your thoughts through 'ego-alignment'

Acting in accordance with our thoughts rather than our impulses is key to remaining true to the values that will lead us to fulfillment. 

Oftentimes, our impulses are based on desires that do not necessarily have our best interests at their core. Thus, it is important to identify what elements in our psychology can help us stay in control while traveling the path to fulfillment.

Research has shown that the concept of 'ego-alignment' is a powerful tool for developing self-control.

 "Ego-alignment describes the relationship between an individual's ability to know what they should do in certain situations versus actually performing the 'correct' action,” explains psychologist Michael Robinson from North Dakota State University.

As a result of living in alignment with their values, ego-aligned individuals tend to live better and less-conflicted lives – a key factor for fulfillment. 

So, the next time you are faced with an important decision, look to approach the problem from a more ego-aligned perspective. In other words, ask yourself if your decision is aligned with your values? If yes, then go forth. However, if it represents something else – perhaps an expectation of what you 'should' do or an impulsive tendency – then it's better to choose a different course of action.

Conclusion: Being grateful about the things you have, cultivating a zestful outlook toward life, and being aligned with your true self (i.e., ego-aligned) are three ways to set you on a path to fulfillment and life satisfaction. Best of all, practicing these concepts is free and simply requires you to allocate a few minutes of your day to cultivate a strong foundation of fulfillment in your life. An occasional visit with your therapist never hurts, either.