“You complete me!” It sounds like a sappy phrase from a romantic movie.
Sometimes, however, we do have experiences that make us feel that way.
Imagine the feeling you have after eating a delicious meal and biting into an equally decadent dessert. Or imagine you are at the end of a beautiful day, maybe on vacation, when one seemingly perfect moment unfolded after the next.
A friend of mine described this feeling after having her third child. In that moment, she said their family felt complete.
The feeling of life being complete can be like deep peace, appreciation for all that we have and all that we are, with no other wishes in the moment. It can bring a sense of being home.
As we go through life, we are constantly being bombarded by messages about what we need or how we can make our lives better.
However, the feeling of completeness is not about reaching some outer goal that we can check off our list. Instead, it’s something that happens internally and is very personal.
So, what is a complete life?
Ask Yourself This Question
It’s important to ask:
What does living a complete life mean to you?
Have you ever experienced a feeling of your life seeming to be complete, even if only for a moment?
My personal belief is that when we experience a sense of completeness, we are being present, grateful, and connected to our unique, inner essence.
By essence, I mean that energy or spark you have within you than no one else on the face of the earth does or ever will.
I believe living a complete life means being you—the real you.
What Is Completeness, Really?
There are so many different ways we experience this essence or gift—our most authentic selves.
We see this essence in action when someone is doing something he or she truly loves to do. Their eyes light up, a smile crosses their face, they are completely focused on the moment, doing what they love to do and being who they really are.
We witness the same radiant energy when we look at a piece of art by someone who was completely in flow when creating it.
We see it in a child when s/he is completely focused and experiencing the joy of playing with a toy, rolling in the sand, or expressing delight about whatever is happening in the moment.
While we all have the ability to experience this sense of completeness, it doesn’t happen automatically.
It requires being able to let go, even for a split second, and connecting with that energy within that has no words. It is already complete just as it is, unique and almost magical.
How Do We Live a Complete Life?
How do we go from navigating the responsibilities of the day-to-day—working, paying bills, trying to eat healthy, exercising, connecting with the outer world, and keeping our relationships humming along, while also feeling this sense of wholeness and completeness? What is a complete life?
The answers are different for each of us, but in my experience, the following five rules can help.
1. Choose Self-Compassion and Empathy
So often we are taught that the only way we can succeed or attain true happiness is if we learn to do things better than other people or when we achieve our personal best.
What if, however, instead of so much focus on life in competitive terms, we instead experimented with compassion?
One of the greatest teachers I have ever had the privilege of studying with when it comes to training in empathy and self-compassion is the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron.
Pema teaches a simple technique called tonglen meditation((Lion’s Roar: How to Practice Tonglen)). In a nutshell, tonglen meditation is training in letting go of the hard-ness of judgement, and accessing the soft spot of empathy and compassion.
The important thing about empathy is to remember that just as we are each unique, we are also always connected with each other because we are all human.
The ability to truly feel compassion for ourselves and deep empathy for others not only makes our current relationships better, it can also help us to attract new relationships that are truly authentic and fulfilling.
2. Be Vulnerable in Order to Stretch and Grow
We receive so many messages from marketers that we would be happier and more successful if we were more perfect. The truth is, perfection is not a goal that any of us can attain.
While none of us are perfect, we are all capable of enormous change, transformation, and growth.
When we shift our perspective to seeing life as an adventure, an opportunity to grow and learn, and adopt a growth mindset((Carol Dweck: Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’)), we begin experiencing the joy that only comes from stretching.
In this way, living a full, complete life isn’t about achieving specific goals, but rather about discovering new ways to connect with that part of ourselves that is unique, complete, changing, growing, and expanding all the time.
The ability to stretch and grow helps us to experience life as a series of complete moments rather than an end goal unto itself.
3. Give Back and Help Others
We each have something unique to offer the world. Research shows that knowing that the small role we play is making a positive difference makes us happier and healthier((Journal of Happiness Studies: Helping Others Shows Differential Benefits on Health and Well-being for Male and Female Teens)) and has a positive effect on our resilience((Journal of Social Service Research: Empathic Action and Family Resilience: A Narrative Examination of the Benefits of Helping Others)).
Ask yourself if there is one simple way you could make someone’s life better today. Pay attention to what you choose.
When we find a way to make a difference that also resonates with our unique gifts and who we really are, we reach a new level of fulfillment.
Your unique way of helping may light the way to a greater sense of purpose that could help make your life feel more complete.
4. Listen to Your Intuition
For years, I have been studying and teaching ways we can each access our intuition more easily. I am often amazed both by how easily we can each access answers for our lives when we take a quiet moment to connect.
We receive so many messages about what is right and wrong that we often forget to tune into and trust ourselves. By simply sitting in silence or meditating on an open-ended question, however, we can easily and effortlessly gain powerful insights about what is right for us in our lives.
Other ways to access our intuition include journaling, writing down our dreams, listening to how our body feels when we are around certain people or doing certain tasks, and asking ourselves specific questions about what we need most and paying attention to the first thing that pops into our mind.
Our intuition can be a powerful guide to finding unexpected stops along the way, treasures we would have never known were available to us if we hadn’t trusted our inner wisdom.
5. Do What You Love
Research shows that when we do what we love, and do that in a state of flow, we find our way not only to happiness, but also to greater success and overall well-being((Positive Psychology: 8 Ways To Create Flow According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)).
You don’t have to do what you love as a career. You don’t even have to be good at it. Making time for activities you love, without any thought to where they are taking you, can make a huge difference in your life.
If you aren’t sure what you love to do, there are many books about finding your passion and spending time in flow and being creative, including Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck and Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow by Marsha Sinetar.
Honoring our passions not only helps us to connect with our unique essence, but it also helps us find our unique paths to living lives that honor all of who we are.
Doing more of what we love can also pave the way to new hobbies or careers that can help our lives feel more complete.
What is a complete life for you? Trust your own answers.
What do you think about the idea of having a unique essence that no one else has? What makes you feel most in sync, connected, and alive?
Look back over the 5 rules above. Which one excites you most? Which one do you think might have the greatest positive impact on your life right now?
Pick one of the rules above and start today. You are already on your way!
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