Everyone has an idea of how their life should look. But for many, it will remain just an idea. They’re afraid that if they spend too much time dreaming it might get in the way of their real lives. They’re not wrong, but what if what you love and what you need was the same thing?
As an entrepreneur, founder and CEO, I can say from experience that while it isn’t easy, it is possible. But the only person capable of making it happen is you. It can be intimidating to think about how to be happy and fulfilled. If there’s one cliche that rings true, it’s that life is a marathon, not a sprint. You would never consider going from sitting on the couch all day to running a marathon without any training. You must first gain endurance, learn technique, eat healthy and mentally prepare for the race ahead.
Similarly, finding fulfillment can be achieved by breaking your life down into manageable areas. Below are the four pillars under which everything else falls. Regardless of your status, wealth or location, everyone must cultivate these things in order achieve happiness.
1. Financial security
It isn’t greedy to want a comfortable life. However, not everyone needs to be a billionaire to be happy; simply being able to provide for yourself and your family lifts a burden from your shoulders. Money has diminishing returns — it can buy happiness up to a certain point (up to about $75,000, according to one study). After that, researchers have had trouble proving that more money makes a difference. However, financial security brings peace of mind, which enables you to be more productive and present in other aspects of your life.
As an entrepreneur, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I can say from personal experience that working in a startup comes with a lot of failure and disappointment. But if you’re willing to put in the work and weather the bad times, you will be on your way to fulfilling both your purpose and your financial future.
Good health is the most basic of all needs. But between work, friends and family, it’s easy to let it fall by the wayside. Don’t be afraid to make time for activities that keep you healthy, because doing so will save you time in the long run. Personally, I find that scheduling every part of my day keeps me productive as well as healthy and stress-free. It enables me to integrate working out (typically, first thing in the morning), grabbing lunch, or simply taking a break without feeling like I’m wasting time, which puts my mind at ease and allows me to focus in the moment.
People lose track of their health regimens because they feel like they’ve failed if they miss one workout or eat one unhealthy meal. But consistency is key. As long as you make an effort to integrate healthy habits into your everyday life, you will be happier for it. Plus, taking time for a run or yoga session can be a great way to clear your mind and reset.
Humans are social creatures. Everyone, at some level, craves the attention and approval of the people who mean the most to them. Developing strong personal relationships is a powerful motivator and an important outlet for stress. Finding time to spend with friends and family can seem like a hassle, but feeling so is often a sign that you need to re-examine your priorities.
For me, it goes back to scheduling. Build time into your week to spend with the people you care about, and then follow through. Staring at a computer screen or making calls all day is tedious, and breaking up your time with recharging activities (e.g., lunch with a significant other) may actually help you finish your work faster. If you’ve thrown yourself into your work so much that you’ve foregone creating personal relationships, there’s a chance that you’re going to feel unfulfilled. Remember that the greatest accomplishments in the world will feel meaningless if you have no one to share them with.
Some people think of purpose as a larger-than-life mission, and the idea of failing on this mission scares them. But this isn’t true: Your purpose can be anything that makes you feel fulfilled. You can have one, or you can have many. Find something that ignites your passion, and then figure out how to build a life around it. Purpose is a personal life mission; spending time figuring out and articulating what yours is might be the best thing you can do for your life early on.
My purpose is a culmination of my life experiences, from growing up impoverished in rural Uganda to coming to the United States to pursue my education and years later my entrepreneur endeavors. My personal mission is to make a difference in at least one person’s life every day, whether it’s by sharing knowledge and ideas or creating products and services that make a difference. I believe that even the smallest step toward your goal could be the biggest step you’ll ever take. So many people spend years working jobs they hate, saying that “one day” they’ll do what they want to do. But today is yesterday’s tomorrow — it’s time to get started.
The overriding factor is time. Ideally, you’re able to spread your time equally among securing financial security, good health, healthy relationships and purpose. I know it’s not that simple, but you only have one life to live. So be intentional about how you spend your time and it won’t pass you by.