If I had woken up so early by chance, I would not have given it a thought and gone back to sleep. But today was special. I had an important job to do. I quickly got out of bed and went straight into the bathroom. I brushed my teeth, took a quick shower, and rushed to pack my school bag. I prayed, had breakfast, and ran to the bus. The day was decisive. We had taken an economics test the week before, and the results were due today. This was no ordinary test; it was a national level exam, and the top scorers had a chance to win a scholarship for their future studies anywhere in the world. I dreamt of studying at Stanford University. Winning this scholarship would have made the path clear. As soon as we reached the school, I was the first to get off the bus. I hurried and checked the notice board. I had won, but only a national level scholarship. Nobody from our school had made it to the cream of international scholarships.
Winning a national level scholarship wasn’t bad. I was among the top 2% who took the exam, but a feeling of dissatisfaction kept me from tasting the joy of success. I came home and told my parents. They were really happy for me. Even my grandma was really happy. I told her that I wasn’t really joyous with my performance. I dreamed of studying at Stanford, which I could have easily accomplished with this scholarship. She said: “you millennials don’t understand the meaning of fulfillment.”
“Fulfillment” was a new word to me. I searched the internet to find out what it meant. From all that I read, the best answer is a sense of satisfaction and growth. I wondered if anybody in this 21st century attains fulfillment. The spur-of-the-moment answer was, why not? Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or any billionaire has enough money to buy (or, in the case of Elon Musk, to create) whatever he or she wants to. Of course these people are fulfilled, I thought.
But then, I came across an amazing case that shook me, the case of an Indian billionaire named V.G. Siddhartha, owner of Café Coffee Day. Café Coffee Day is the Starbucks of India. It exists in over 200 cities, with around 1,800 outlets across the country. In the month of July, he committed suicide. Why? While most of the reports say it was due to the pressure of the workspace, some claim that he wasn’t happy or fulfilled by what he had achieved. His business was under the pressure of debts and some other issues like the liquidity crunch, but they were recoverable. Had he survived, the company could have prospered again. The major reason behind his act could be lack of fulfillment.
The question that struck my mind then was: what are these barriers that keep us from feeling fulfilled? How do we overcome them? So I read some books like The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, a bestseller by Robin Sharma, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson, and Believe in Yourself by Joseph Murphy, which led me to other answers. All of these books lay a path to a more fulfilled life in their own ways. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is a story of a wealthy lawyer who moves out in search of fulfillment and then meets gurus in India. He then narrates all he learns to his friend. The Alchemist is a story where a shepherd, the protagonist, follows his subconscious mind. Who Moved My Cheese is a story of two rats who teach us to change ourselves with changing circumstances. Here I have listed a few of my take-aways:
1. Negative thoughts
The main reason we never feel fulfilled is because of the thoughts that wander into our head all day. In this world of the rat race, we constantly strive to get better. However, we never think of how this impacts us. Although I agree that competition leads to development, we miss out on the feeling of fulfillment. Constant competition ruins our thinking, and after some hard times, we start feeling abnormally depressed and anxious. How do we avoid this? Sharma says, "the mind is a magnificent garden. It should be cultivated with good thoughts. The quality of thoughts determine the quality of the life we live. Consider setbacks as opportunities for personal expansion and spiritual growth. Doing these things will help us feel fulfilled." But then I thought, how can we do that? Some of us are sensitive and may be offended by negligible happenings. Find the good in everything. Reaffirm to yourself that things are going to change. An oscillation pulls you back only to send you even farther forward. A rotten apple spoils the barrel, and so does a negative thought. Let's say you had an argument with your friend. You come back home and then keep on thinking about the possible comebacks you could have used against him or her. Quite common, isn't it? Most of us curse the friend in our thoughts. So try to forget whatever happened and move on. Shake hands the next day and head to a fresh start!
2. Lack of ability to set an achievable goal
Millennials are full of enthusiasm and energy. They think of achieving every possible thing in life. However, one must understand that not everything can be achieved at the same time. Instead of striving for everything, focus on one goal. Sharma states, "Today, and this very moment, is a gift. Stay focused on your purpose. The universe will take care of everything else.” He also says "the purpose of life is a life of purpose. Discovering and then realizing your lifework brings lasting fulfillment." We as modern-day people have left our values behind. The memories of the old days lay in dust, and we run as rats do. We waste time socializing and feeling envious of what others get to taste but forget the fact that we have something that is precious, and that gift is time. Every second of the day is a dessert only if you relish the taste. Staying focused on what we want to have is the key to fulfillment. For example, let us consider you have decided to score a 90 in your yearly exam. Of course it may take time. For someone scoring 30, achieving the goal immediately is next to impossible. So what should be the best way? Set a goal for 40 in the next test and keep lifting the bar, making sure you practice enough to get a 90 at the yearly exam! Persistent efforts will take you to your goal.
3. Lack of self belief
Let me ask you a question: How many times will you be able to jump by lifting one leg (i.e., standing on one foot) in a minute? Some might say 40, others would say 60. Set a timer and jump as many times as possible. I am sure that you will be surprised by the result. Unleashing our potential to the fullest is an important step towards fulfillment. Try to make the most of every second. Give yourself to your dreams. We underestimate the mind within us. Gear yourself up and take on challenges. The challenges will inadvertently help you develop. Dr. Murphy says, “With the right mental attitude we can stimulate our conscious and subconscious minds, which will take you to your desired goals.” Success outside begins inside. Stimulating and catalyzing the belief within ourselves will guide us to fulfillment.
4. Lack of gratitude
How many of us care for the homeless person we saw today asking for help? How many of us care to thank our teacher for the lessons she gave us today? How many of us say a thank you to our parents for the luxuries they have given us? I am sure most of us haven’t recently. Lack of gratitude becomes a major barrier to a fulfilled life. The universe is generous. It gives so much to us: from the land, the oxygen that we take in, to the food that we have and the water that we drink. Do we give the universe anything in return? The universe is already fulfilled. It has everything that it needs. As humans, we can at least show respect and gratitude to her. Be grateful to the almighty and your parents who brought you in this world. Our parents help us in every possible way to help us achieve whatever we wish! Expression of gratitude also leads to better mental and physical condition. Show your gratitude to all those who have helped you. Show your gratitude by remembering the moments that have made you happy. Live your moments of glory again, and I am sure your life will change.
5. Lack of persistence and respect for time
Very few people today persistently follow what they have decided. Most of us decide to exercise on New Year’s Day, but very few of us follow the resolution. We as students constantly procrastinate studying and waste our time on other non-productive activities. This is a sheer disrespect of time. We should understand that doing the right things at the right time is a pathway to fulfillment. No goal can be achieved without persistence. Time is the most precious commodity we own, and it is nonrenewable. Sharma says, “Those who use time wisely from an early age are rewarded with rich, productive and satisfying lives.” I believe being a prisoner of the present is better than being a king of the past.
A journey started with my scholarship. It came to an end when I found ways to overcome the barriers to a fulfilled life. I hope countering these five major barriers will lead to a fulfilled life. I have started implementing what I learned. I spend more time with my parents and family, I try to avoid negative thoughts by keeping myself busy in activities like sports, I have set goals to take my test score even higher by systematically increasing my efforts, and I try to improve my punctuality day by day. Not fulfillment but the path to it makes us what we always dreamt of. Enjoy the process, not the pinnacle!
Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988.
Johnson, Spencer. Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way To Deal With Change In Your Work And In Your Life. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1998.
Murphy, Joseph. Believe in Yourself. The Jean L. Murphy Revocable Trust, 1956.
Sharma, Robin. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Spiritual Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams and Reaching Your Destiny. HarperSanFrancisco: 1999.
Aditya Dinesh Naik is 17 years old and studies in the 12th grade. He loves reading books and playing badminton. He also enjoys playing an Indian percussion instrument called Tabla. Cycling with friends is one of his favorite activities.
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