Mind the satisfaction gap! How to feel more fulfilled
How satisfied are you with your life today? Are you doing what you want, or what other people want of you? And if you’re not completely happy, how do you change your life and become more fulfilled?
All too often today, mums feel under pressure to be superwoman – to juggle lots of different roles and keep everyone else happy. And while that may work for a while, eventually it’s hard not to start feeling dissatisfied and even resentful.
So how do you learn how to find balance in your life, and manage to achieve a well-run home, a successful career or business, a happy relationship and look after your children? How do you fill the gap between the life you have now, and the life you aspire to? Coach Amanda Cullen shares her expert advice.
Learn to let go
If you’re not happy with every aspect of your life right now, and are struggling to feel fulfilled and satisfied, it’s time to let go of something and make sure you’re looking after your own needs, as well as everyone else’s.
I appreciate that there are things that we can’t let go of – but there are also opportunities to change the way we approach aspects of our lives, and let go of expectations, approaches and tasks that aren’t working for us. And instead choose to do things that are right for us, or in ways that fit our needs and constraints better. It also means making positive choices to do more of the things that you do enjoy.
Are you satisfying your needs or society’s expectations?
Society is full of expectations that we are often raised to live up to. In past generations there was an expectation that women from more affluent backgrounds would leave work when they had children (or when they married). Only those who had to work to keep body and soul together for themselves and their children would do so.
Today the lines are much more blurred. This brings greater freedom, but with it comes other pressure – and usually that’s pressure to conform to the expectations of those around us, including:
- Our family.
- Our partner.
- Our children.
- Other mums with widely diverse views.
- The media.
And then there are the pressures brought about by financial commitments and aspirations. You may need to make decisions or choices to pay for a mortgage, debts, a car, private education or nice holidays.
We’re also guilty of placing pressure on ourselves, thinking that we SHOULD work full time, look for promotion or give up work and nurture our children.
Have the courage to make the right choice for you
Sometimes, in order to be happy, you need to have the courage to make choices that you know are right for you and your family – even if your friends and family don’t understand.
My own experience was that what suited me and our family was different from what suited most of my friends. I don’t like small children and was never maternal! I loved my daughter dearly, but had no desire to spend all my time with her when she was a baby.
I was back on my emails when my daughter was six days old, and back at work by the time she was three months old. I was better able to give her my dedicated attention at evenings and weekends because of my fulfilling full time job.
However, as she started school I realised I wanted to be more involved. I reduced my hours and was able to maintain a balance that worked for me. By then I had achieved the promotion at work that I had aspired to, had proved myself in the new role, and was able to demonstrate that it could be done part time.
This new balance worked well throughout her school years until my daughter approached GCSEs. Then fate intervened in the shape of her chronic illness. I found it increasingly difficult to focus on a job I no longer believed in or enjoyed, when I wanted to be there to support her – not to mention the practicalities of attending numerous medial appointments.
I took the difficult and momentous decision to leave employment and start my own business. It wasn’t easy – I had been with the same company for nearly 30 years and was used to the safety of a regular salary and an infrastructure that did all the administrative support around my work.
However I can honestly say it was the best decision I could have made. I am so much happier. I love the flexibility of my new working day and the fact that I no longer have to separate family life from my work – it’s right for me (and for my family) right now.
At each stage of being a mum, I carefully considered what choices suited me (and my family) best, and made them. They weren’t always decisions that other people understood, but they worked for us. And as a result, I was a happy and fulfilled mum and employee. I enjoyed my life, raised a happy daughter and was successful at my job.
What’s right for you, right now?
If you are happy and fulfilled in all aspects of your life, that’s fantastic. Whatever you are doing, you clearly have the balance right. Celebrate it, and make the most of it – but be prepared to make changes if that sense of fulfillment ever starts to fade.
However, if you aren’t completely satisfied with your life right now, if you have a sense that you could be more fulfilled, don’t be afraid to explore changes.
Don’t worry about what others may think, or what your preconceptions tell you is the right thing to do. Give yourself a break from should and explore what you could do differently instead.
Get really clear on what an ideal outcome would look like. Would you be at home full time? Would you be at work full time? Would you work differently – different hours, different location, different work? Would you have more help at home? Or more help at work, to reduce the stress?
Once you know what you’d love to have, you can identify the gap between where you are now and where you’d love to be. Then think about what you can do to start to bridge that gap.
It may involve one big jump, or lots of little steps. Just make a start, and take one step, big or small, towards a more fulfilling lifestyle. For YOU. Right now!
What will you do to bridge your satisfaction gap?
If you’re not completely happy with your life right now, only one person has the power to change it, and that is you. So have the courage to analyse what isn’t working for you, identify how it could change, and make the decisions you need to do it.
Don’t worry if others don’t agree with your choices – as long as they feel right, and work for your family and career, they’ll work for you. And if you’re happier and more fulfilled, you’ll have more energy and enthusiasm for your life, be a better mum and friend, more effective colleague, and everyone will be better off as a result.
Amanda Cullen helps small business owners to run their business better. She runs Business Made Simpler, which offers 1:1 coaching and runs monthly workshops in London.