I am no expert on what it takes for a person to lead a satisfying life, but I have some idea of what it does not take. Life satisfaction does not come from isolated goals, such as wealth, fame or beauty. Sure, when someone does not have enough money to pay the bills, money helps. The same goes for fame and beauty, but these pursuits alone are generally lacking in furthering a goal of life fulfillment.
It seems to me, that the best way to achieve happiness, or fulfillment, has little to do with superficial achievements. At the end of the day, or at the end of one's life, I think the question should be, do I have regrets? Since we all make mistakes, and I can tell you I have made a boatload of mistakes in my life, hopefully these mistakes do not end up as being regrets, that we learn lessons from our mistakes. I am not an expert in psychology and I do not profess to be better than others, but after much consideration, I think the guidelines below are a good start to a life well lived.
These are what I think are the building blocks of a satisfying life:
1. Take calculated risks - This is really hard. It is hard getting out of one's comfort zone. To some people, that may be riding that roller coaster (literally, not the figurative roller coaster of existence that many of us have.) I do not like the feel of falling, I mean really falling, down many feet at rapidly increasing speeds. If you do, go for it. If you want to sky dive, do it. Those things are not my cup of tea. I prefer calculated risks such as going to trial for a person and cause in which I believe. I respect those who stand up against bullying or protest against a law or practice about which they feels is unjust. Speaking up is a risk. You have to be willing to suffer the consequences of a bad result. Robbing a bank is a risk, but I do not consider it a wise risk, nor an objectively calculated risk. The downside is prison or death by shooting. Robbing a bank has negative moral implications. I can honestly say, for most people, robbing a bank does not lead to self-fulfillment. Each of us needs to honestly assess what we are afraid of doing, and if it is something that makes you feel more confident or better about yourself, do it. Of course, if you are a sociopath or serial killer, please ignore this advice.
2. Deal with personal demons - no one comes through childhood, or adulthood, unscathed. We all have demons. Some of us have terrifying demons, being victims of sexual or child abuse, living with people who deride us, being bullied in childhood. Ignoring demons is bad. People who are oppressed oftentimes grow up to be oppressors. It is not easy seeking counseling, being honest about our faults, admitting our imperfections. A really wise man I know says, "If you can't talk about it, it's out of control." I believe that statement to be profound.
3. Forgiving others - Many people believe that forgiving others who have hurt them somehow lets the other person off the hook. That is the wrong way to look at transgressions. When we hold grudges and refuse to forgive others, we hurt ourselves. Forgiveness is for us, no really for the people who hurt us. There is a saying that I believe, "Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die from it." Being filled with rage, hatred and anger, damages us, not the target of the scorn. To end of up feeling satisfied from life, it is necessary to forgive. Anger tears up the psyche of the angry. Forgiveness can be hard, but it is oh so satisfying.
4. Love ourselves - It has taken me a long time to accept who I am . I have gray hair, excess weight, a smart-alecky mouth and I gossip at times. I love myself anyway. The only way to feel truly accepted in life is through self-acceptance. The only way to gain true self acceptance, for me, is by following rules 1-3 above. Once you love yourself, or, in other words, develop a thick skin, it is hard to be vulnerable to attacks from others. If you are not seeking validation from that boss, that co-worker, that boss, that lover, you can concentrate on others. Only when you love yourself, can you forget about yourself and do the things that are satisfying, such as working at a job you love, being a good parent, being a good neighbor, being a good spouse. When we love ourselves, we can forget to think about perceived problems. Only then do we feel contentment, in being a person focused on people and issues outside ourselves and free of self-doubt and self-criticism.
5. Do what you love - You may love your job. You probably love your children and your mate, if you have one. You may love doing volunteer work. Do something outside of yourself that brings you fulfillment. Volunteer to help someone in need. Give your children encouragement. Help your partner or your parents. Bake cookies and give it to someone. If you can afford it, send flowers to someone who does not expect it.
6. Give without expecting anything in return - When you give to someone without expecting anything in return, it is truly satisfying. The act of giving to someone else is reward enough, even if not appreciated by others. We don't have children so that there is someone to take care of us when we get old, or at least, that is not a good reason to have children. Donate anonymously. Think of others. The act of giving is reward enough. True love is about giving, not getting.
Well, off the top of my head, these are the six things that I can think of that leads to a satisfying life. None of us knows what the future holds. We have to work on the now. I am sure others have more, better thought out, ideas on how to lead a satisfying life. But the six guidelines above are certainly a good start.