This post is part 2 of a 4-part series on fulfillment. Read part 1 here.
As the number of vaccinated people increases, more of us are getting back out into the world or we’re preparing to. We’re planning lunches with our vaccinated friends at our favorite restaurant, dinner parties, and all those trips we had to postpone. We’re happy to think about finally returning to some of our old routines and habits.
As you get ready to re-enter the world, I’d like to invite you to take a moment to reconsider everything you’ve put on pause for the past year. This “reopening” of your worlds offers a perfect opportunity to open up more space in your life for what I call “essence,” which I talked about in a previous post.
Essence is the feeling-experience a form holds for you. That form might be a material object, a trip or an outing, or a relationship. Whatever form it inhabits, essence can shift. For example, you might love a necklace because someone you care about gave it to you, but if your relationship with that person were to change, the essence qualities of that necklace might no longer be there for you.
So as life again begins to shift, consider the things you do or have done that aren’t particularly essence-rich anymore (or maybe never were). The more “empty” forms in our lives we can let go of—objects, routines, or even relationships that no longer serve us—the more space we have for essence-rich things and experiences we can invite into our lives instead.
How Essence Can Help You Make Decisions
Life is a feeling experience, which means that your quality of life depends absolutely on how you feel about it. Wisdom comes in being able to identify the essence—the feeling-experience that you want to have—and then making decisions in line with that essence. It’s as simple as asking yourself: what do I want to get out of this in terms of a feeling experience? Healing? Stamina? Adventure? Creativity? Sustainability? Peace?
While you work on establishing your new normal, you may have more choices about how you’re going to re-engage with the outside world than you think. Rather than just taking things for granted, you can decide how you want to move forward and stay aimed at a more fulfilling life.
For example, consider dressing up for work. How do you feel about that now that you’ve had a break from it? If it now feels like a burden, or something that you’re dreading, how can you make a decision that is more essence-rich? Maybe ditch the heels for comfortable shoes, trade in dresses for slacks, or see if you can work from home a few days a week.
Now is the time to make decisions about what your new normal will be. During the COVID lockdown, there were plenty of things we think we’ve missed. But in reality we don’t actually miss the act of shopping with friends or working out at the gym or dinner parties – what we miss are the essence-rich feelings these experiences gave us.
So, first, identify the things you miss. Then, determine the missing essence. Is it community? Connection? Contribution? Ease?
Consider the essences of things that are more complex expenditures of your time, money, and energy. For example, with an eye to travel, are there simpler ways you can experience the essence of enjoyment, discovery, or renewal? Do you need to go all the way to Europe or Cancun, or might there be opportunities that require less travel, money, and effort? Instead of fewer, longer trips, could you create more essence with frequent, shorter ones?
If you revisit your motivations through the lens of essence, you can better key in on what it is that you actually want out of your life and take the right steps toward bringing more of that into your day-to-day.
Maybe you spent a lot of time on Facebook during the pandemic. If so, ask yourself what the feeling-experience was that you were looking for. Insight? Understanding? Openness? How often did you actually experience this essence while on the platform? Now, as you move forward, are there more essence-rich ways you might be able to spend your time that better deliver the essence qualities you want to experience?
Will you go back to the same gym or studio? If you’re not sure how to make this decision, consider the instructor, how you feel while there and afterwards, and the other people who also go there. What exactly is the essence you’re looking for with this membership (Well-being? Transformation? Balance?) and ask yourself if that “form” is delivering essence or not?
Maybe you joined a club in search of community, but you don’t actually find it there. For whatever reason, the other people just aren’t a fit. Rather than sitting in the ashes of your disappointment—either by sentencing yourself to attend a gathering you don’t enjoy or by giving up on clubs altogether—you can just move on and seek a group that is more essence-rich for you. When you focus on essence, and letting go of anything that doesn’t deliver it, you avoid getting stuck in forms that do not truly serve you.
Even with an activity as simple as a walk, determine the essence quality you want from it, like mobility, spontaneity, perseverance, detachment. Then as you set out, allow yourself to determine if the walk is rich in this essence or not. And if the walk isn’t delivering as you’d hoped, give yourself permission to turn around and go home. Of course, if the essence you’re looking for is perseverance or doing something for your well-being, then you might want to encourage yourself to stick with it. Essence is all about what you want to get out of the experience and being mindful if you’re getting it or not, then being flexible enough to make changes.
Essence can also increase your quality of life right now in small ways, simply by focusing attention on your essence feeling-experience, moment-to-moment. It helps you evaluate what you’re doing. For example, am I doing this robotically, or am I getting something rewarding enough from this that I want to continue doing it? After all, when something is rewarding, you are now better positioned to notice and consciously enjoy it.
And when you find yourself in a situation that has no essence, try putting your attention on the essence you would like to have. If you can identify the missing essence, you can use this to guide your choices moving forward. When you can recognize that the essence of enjoyment or willingness or freedom is not here right now—but also that you want those things— you now have a goal. And rather than focusing on how empty the current experience is, you can focus on making more essence-rich choices moving forward.
Take good care : )