“With age comes wisdom.” ~Oscar Wilde
I view my life as my education and my experiences as my teacher. So while some may complain about getting older, I embrace it. I recently turned 31 and since my birthday, I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve grown and expanded my view on life these last few years, but especially as I’ve moved into my 30s.
Your 20s are such a pivotal time to figure out what you want out of life and who you want in it, but I’m learning your 30s are when you really get to a point of self-awareness and self-reflection. I’m learning more about who I am as a person and how I want to live my life through experiences that I’m both exposed to and seek out more than ever before. Age and wisdom may not go hand in hand for everyone, but it has for me.
When I was reflecting the other day, I realized there were some key things that have gotten me to where I am today in living a life of fulfillment. I couldn’t wait to share them with you to see if you relate or find them helpful in any way. Find out what they are below!
Your happiness lies in your hands
I used to base my happiness on how happy I could make others. I was a people pleaser to my core. What I found from that though was that I was putting everyone before myself and I wasn’t truly happy with how I was living my life or who I was becoming. The moment I decided to take charge of my happiness was the moment I truly started becoming who I was meant to be all along.
Only you can control how happy you are in your life. If you’re unhappy in your job, look for another one. If you’re unhappy in a relationship, walk away. If you’re unhappy with how you look and feel, change your habits. If you’re unhappy with a situation, speak up. And if you’re unhappy period, seek out an expert or a good friend for advice. You have a choice.
And the choice is simple but the work to push through that choice is hard. But I promise you the work is always worth it – because your happiness and a life of fulfillment is waiting on the other side. Find out some ways you can achieve your ideal happy here.
Someone’s negative words and reactions likely have nothing to do with you
No matter what you do in life, someone will always find a way to say or think something negative about you. You can’t please them all! I used to try to change people’s perceptions of me when they’d belittle me or say hurtful things, but I realized that was wasted energy. As Rachel Hollis always says, what someone thinks about you is none of your business. And when it comes down to it, those people’s negative words and actions are often a reflection on themselves – and have nothing to do with you. Hurt people are the ones who try to hurt other people. As I’ve accepted that, I’ve learned to respond with compassion, instead of retaliating back. Find out how I’ve been able to handle negative people in the past in this post.
You can’t control every situation – but you can control your attitude
I used to let all the little things get to me when things went wrong that were out of my control. I’d complain, huff and puff and let my anxiety overwhelm me. And guess what? It didn’t change anything – it only made me appear agitated and childish. I’ve learned that it’s worthless to fret over things that I can’t control and that don’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things.
When I find myself in a situation out of my control, I do my best to have perspective. Perspective is everything and can instantly change your attitude towards a situation. For example, instead of thinking, “why is this happening to me?” I push myself to think “what is this teaching me?” Definitely a game changer when it comes to living a life of fulfillment.
Face fear with open arms
I saw a quote from DailyOm the other day that said “Anything really worth doing in our lives will always have some fear attached to it.” And I couldn’t have written it better myself. The things that scare you, scare you for a reason. While most will run away from fear, those who are successful embrace their fears and push through it. That’s what living your life is really about. I share more on the topic of fear, namely when it comes to the fear of failure, in this post.
Pursue your passion & fuel your purpose
I suppressed my passion for writing throughout the majority of my 20s. Why? I feared judgment, I made excuses, I was morphing into someone I thought people wanted to be me, the list goes on. It wasn’t until I decided to make a change and pursue my writing that I began to find my way. I discovered a purpose in life with Lipstick & Ink, something that I intended originally as just a hobby for me. But as it grew, I found myself wanting to do more, impact more and connect more. If there’s a passion deep inside you that you know you have, embrace it. Own it. Pursue it. You’ll soon realize how much it fuels you and reaffirms the feeling that you’re living a life of fulfillment.
Comparing yourself to others is wasted energy
Comparing ourselves to others is human nature – generations have been doing it for decades. However, it’s magnified x10 nowadays, thanks to social media. It can be easy to fall into the trap and look at people and wish you were more like them in some way or wonder why you’re not like them. But here’s the thing – you’re not doing yourself any favors thinking that way. Allowing yourself to do that is wasted energy and is only going to make you feel unworthy or shitty about yourself.
Become aware of when you are going on a downward spiral and halt your negative thinking. Shift your thinking and instead focus on who you are as a person, what makes you special and what you can offer to the world. Find ways to manage your negative thoughts here.
If you must compare, only compare yourself to who you were yesterday. You can always strive to be better – but as the best version of you, not someone else.
Open your mind to new people, ideas and experiences
In order to live a fulfilling life, you have to be open and accepting of people you encounter, ideas you hear and experiences you are exposed to. This piece is critical to growing and evolving as a person.
Looking back on my childhood, I didn’t always have the opportunity to get out of my bubble and explore what else the world could offer me. But as I got to high school and college and then to living in the city of Chicago, I was exposed to more types of people and cultures, new ideas, and new places through travel. This helped me to open my eyes and my mind to the possibilities of what having diversity in your life can do for you.
Get out of your bubble!
There’s no shame in admitting if and when you need help
This one can be difficult, but ask for help when you need it. You simply can’t do it all, as much as you’d like to think you can. There are people in your life who love you, want what’s best for you and will want to help you if you need it – all you have to do is ask.
Asking for help can also mean seeking the help of an expert. What I’ve learned is that there is no shame in therapy – seriously – Millennials are considered the “Therapy Generation,” after all. Being vulnerable and raising your hand for help is what shows true strength. To truly feel fulfilled, you have to take care of your mental health and that may mean coming face to face with things you’ve previously buried. Having a safe place to talk about those struggles and be heard by an unbiased perspective may be just what you need to accept and move forward. And ultimately, you are only going to learn from and grow from that experience to live a life of fulfillment. I certainly did.
Boundaries are key
Setting boundaries is a surefire way to improve your life and it’s something I still continue to learn and implement into mine. You have to set boundaries with the amount of work you commit to, the people you spend time with, the work and social commitments you agree to, as well as how you spend your time.
That last one is extremely important. Make sure that no matter how busy or hectic your life gets that you set a boundary for yourself and allow time to be alone. Use that time to do the things that make you happy and feel fulfilled.
Remove yourself from toxic relationships & seek out positive, supportive and genuine relationships
Growing up, I succumbed to keeping people in my life who I knew weren’t good for me. Whether it was because I was in love with them, was afraid of them and what they were capable of, or because I was simply caught up in the people pleasing act, I’d let them walk all over me and have some type of control over me.
Toxic relationships can rip you to shreds mentally and leave you feeling empty and unworthy. I’ve accepted that in most cases, those people won’t change, so I’ve learned to either set boundaries with people like that or walk away and sever the relationship. It can be difficult to get to that point and make a decision like that, but realizing and accepting that you deserve respect and support is what will get you there.
It’s much easier to live a life of purpose and fulfillment when you are spending time with people who believe in you and what you are doing. Having those people in your life who lift you up and encourage you are what’s going to keep you going and fueling your happiness. I’ve seen such a shift in how I approach my life just simply by pivoting to who I spend more of my time with. Remember – you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
Celebrate your accomplishments (and share them too)
I used to sit on my successes so I didn’t seem full of myself. But over the last five years, I’ve realized that if I want to advance in my career specifically, I’m the best person to testify to my strengths and accomplishments. Because if you yourself aren’t even looking out for your best interests, who is? I’m not suggesting to be boastful and over the top, but you should celebrate your accomplishments – both large and small.
Sometimes successes happen behind the scenes, so we need to share them out with our managers or team to get that visibility so you can ultimately land that promotion. It can be uncomfortable, but you have to advocate for yourself. Outside of work too, it’s important to share your wins with family and friends. The people who genuinely want the best for you want to celebrate your achievements and support you in that. You also never know who you are inspiring!
Warm your heart by giving back
I don’t think there’s anything better in this world than extending a hand and helping someone. I’ve learned how important it is for me to volunteer and give back. It gives me a feeling of joy, gratitude and purpose. I believe we should always come from a place of service in wanting to help others because that is what a life of fulfillment is truly about. The love in my heart for helping others is what ultimately made me decide to sign up for a volunteer trip to Rwanda, Africa next February. I cannot wait to immerse myself in a new culture, get to know the people of Rwanda and ultimately help to make a lasting impact.
Everything happens for a reason
I know, I know, this one is so cliche. My grandma always said everything happens for a reason and as I look back on things that have happened in my life, I know she was right.
Any time I find myself feeling discouraged or going through a rough spot in my life, I try to look at the situation through the lense that it’s teaching me something, even if it doesn’t make sense in that moment. Learning to accept that and the fact that my life isn’t always going to be sunshine and butterflies has gotten me through those hard times. I now look at everything that life throws my way with the perspective that it’s happening for a reason. That is what ultimately gives me hope and purpose and leads me to living a life of fulfillment.
“Your long-term happiness and fulfillment depend on your ability to fulfill your soul’s unique purpose and to fill the place in the world that only you can fill, making the contribution that only you can make.” ~Rod Stryker
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.