In a recent episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast, Tim interviewed the world famous performance coach, Tony Robbins. In the interview, Tony makes a great case for shifting your focus from achievement and a goal orientated mindset to fulfilment and being happy with what you do (skip forward to 42:08 to listen to this part).
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Robbins argues that when you focus on achievement, you’re never going to be satisfied as you want more. That’s the thing with focusing on achievement; if your happiness depends on achieving things, you’ll never be happy as you have to achieve more and more. Now compare this to the idea of feeling fulfiled by the work that you do and making this the goal. Now you’re much more likely to find and sustain happiness.
Success without fulfilment is the ultimate failure in life. The worst advice you can get is “go achieve all your goals” because most people do that and they go “is this all there is?”. What you have to find out is what’s going to fulfil you.
I’ve been thinking about this idea a bit recently. A few weeks ago I expressed my thoughts on Jason Fried’s article titled: “I’ve never had a goal”. This notion of shifting your focus away from goals and achievement has really got me thinking… While I think goals are important (because they provide you with a sense of direction, they motivate you and they help you to prioritise), you should balance goal setting with feeling fulfiled and content in yourself.
Casey Neistat, a YouTuber with over 4 million subscribers, just made a video about passing this milestone. In the video, he says:
When I cross that finish line I look beyond it and immediately look for the next finish line. With each success should come a bigger more ambitious goal.
Now I have huge respect for Casey's work ethic. He's an incredibly hard worker (you can tell when you watch his vlog). But I saw this and felt confused because I agree; you shouldn't rest on your laurels or get too comfortable. But if you just go from one goal to the next, without pausing to experience that fulfilment, then this is the ultimate failure that Robbins talks about.
Robbins calls it the “art” of fulfilment. Where achievement is more of a “science” because there are systems and processes you can follow to achieve certain goals, the feeling of fulfilment is different for everyone.
So, how do you find fulfilment in the work that you do?
I’d like to highlight a few of the main points that Tony made in his interview. And please keep in mind, I don’t take any credit for these ideas. I simply want to pass along the message.
Beautiful states vs. suffering states
In the interview, Tony describes how you can only ever be in one of two states:
There are only two places you can live; beautiful states of being like joy, happiness, love, passion, all these states where life is magnificent and where you treat yourself and others at the highest level. And there are suffering states like stress, frustration, fear, concerned, overwhelmed and any emotion that takes you out of a beautiful state.
Yoda was right! Suffering is a path to the dark side…
He goes on to talk about how you have to actively choose to live in the beautiful states and put an end to the suffering states before they take hold of you.
Billionaires are common, but someone who’s happy all of their life is not.
Isn’t that an amazing thought? What if you could be truly happy, all of the time? What if that was the goal? Instead of focusing on how much money you want to earn, how big you want your company to be, how much you want to weigh or how many Instagram followers you have, focus on being happy all the time.
This is similar to what Ryan Holiday talks about in his book, The Obstacle is the Way (book summary). Holiday dedicates a whole section of his book to talking about perception and how you're allowed to choose how you perceive things and you're allowed to choose how you feel.
Easier said than done…
Grow, so you can help others
Robbins makes the case that one of the most important principles that enables this feeling of fulfilment is growth. This is because growth gives us something to give. By improving ourselves and learning more, we have more to offer other people.
This makes perfect sense!
In his book, Leaders Eat Last (book summary), Sinek describes how humans are programmed to feel good when we help others. When you do something for something else, hormones are released into your body to make you feel good so that you do more nice things for other people.
Do you know how we get fulfilment? You can be happy because you did things at work. You can be proud because you did things at work. You can be excited because of a big success at work. But do you know how you feel fulfiled at work? When you do something for someone else. It’s the only way we get that feeling.
So, if you want to feel more fulfiled, go and do something for someone else. Not so that you can cash in a favour later. But just for no other reason than to help that person.
Less, loss and never
In order to avoid the suffering states that we talked about before, you need to understand what causes these suffering states.
Suffering comes from three thought patters: loss, less and never.
Let’s look at them:
- Loss – When you feel like you’ve lost something, life, as you expected it to be, is different and this expectation that’s no longer satisfied is what causes suffering.
- Less – Or, maybe you didn’t lose everything, but even if you feel you have less love, respect or passion, you’re going to feel unhappy.
- Never – This can lead to you thinking you’ll never have those things again and this brings about more suffering.
So, what’s the solution to feeling thoughts of loss, less or never?
Gratitude and appreciation
When you focus on what you do have, you naturally start to forget about what you don’t have (loss, less, never). There are loads of things you can do to show appreciation and get into a beautiful state. In the podcast, Robbins takes you through a simple 2-minute exercise where you focus on your breath and think about three things you’re grateful for. Skip forward to 1:08:00 in the episode to go through this exercise.
I hope this has given you something to think about. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you check out the full interview with Tony on the Tim Ferriss podcast.