On Living a Fulfilled Life
(For my children ManLeong & ManSum, and those interested in living a fulfilled life)
Making full use of the only time we have on Earth
No one is sure about an after-life, which in any case is beyond our control. The only control one has is over one’s own life here and now while living on Earth. As we pass through life only once, one should exercise this unique control with wisdom.
Life as a Creative Self-directed Project
View life as a project to be created and directed by oneself. Consciously lead one’s life with articulated strategies to achieve self-chosen goals while counteracting the forces of mundane habits and social hypnotism. The sense of mastery of one’s own fate through the various stages of life is a distinctive source of happiness in life.
Tactics: Accord the top priority to this life project and allocate ample resources to it. Each year plan and implement an annual project with a special theme.
Strategies to Lead a Fulfilled Life
Lay a Solid Physio-Psychological foundation
Exercise regularly for a healthy body. Learn a sport, be it swimming, ball game, track or else and practice it frequently. The equally important emotional health is fostered in a nurturing family. Seeking counseling assistance, reading books on EQ and emotional growth as one acquires life experiences, can compensate any deficiency in such nurturing.
Tactics: Consider longevity as a fundamental goal in life to be achieved by fostering and maintaining a healthy body and mind.
Plan Visionary Life Projects as the Master of One’s Own Fate
Homo sapiens are not as much limited by tools as by their visions. Broaden one’s visions by reading biographies, history, creative novels and watching creative films. Consciously explore the infinite possibilities of being with imagination. Set visionary goals and measurable objectives in the various realms of one’s life (developmental tasks) with a view to fulfilling these visions and realizing these possibilities:
Character Building : a process of becoming one’s own self with noble human traits – integrity, confidence, optimism, endurance, perseverance,
fortitude, honesty, positivism…this is the most important, distinguishing achievement in one’s life;
Study : choose subjects/fields of knowledge one likes to master; master wisdom, rather than just knowledge, as a life-long pursuit;
Career : choose a congruent profession and learn the required skill/expertise; adopt a positive and developmental attitude; tactically move to
a lateral career if upper rung of current career ladder constrained;
Marriage : choose a partner, rear children and organize one’s ideal kind of family; (Luck plays a vital role in this aspect of life because
fulfillment in this life aspect depends on chance encounter and involves another person’s choice.);
Social Achievement : choose a field to contribute to the human race, e.g. to invent/discover as a scientist, to improve the welfare of mankind
as a politician or as a worker, to create novelty as an artist…
Retirement : aim at retiring early to leave enough time for fulfilling one’s dreams congruent to one’s self-image
(one’s career can seldom fulfill these dreams); implement financial plans to support an early retirement at an early stage of one’s career;
Devise concrete plans with visionary goals and measurable objectives and see it through step by step. Make revisions on the way as one learns more about the project and about one’s goals.
Tactics: Write down these plans in a life-planning folder and review them regularly. When articulated in this way, these plans will result in auto-suggestion and become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Regular Life Reviews with Paradigm Shifts and changes of Mindset
Regularly review one’s circumstances regarding intellectual, social, emotional and physical developments. Search for directions of improvement. Admit one’s mistakes readily and change courses from time to time before going astray too far.
Be flexible in one’s mindset and adapt strategies to changing circumstances. From time to time assess situations from a different but positive perspective. In a predicament, look at setbacks with paradigm shifts: failures are opportunities to learn about one’s weaknesses which point to ways of improving oneself so that one can succeed next time. Similarly a crisis can be looked at as an opportunity to learn to better one’s life.
Tactics: Identify a quiet place, such as in a library, to conduct the reviews and write them down for regular review.
Sharpen the Thinking Skills, Resist Enculturation and Replace it with Wisdom
Wisdom, rather than mere knowledge, is vital for a happy life. In this connection, no tool is as valuable as the habit of independent thinking.
Think about what is good for oneself, not what is told to be good by society. Any social system, be it capitalism, socialism, welfare state, has its own cultural myths which alienate oneself from a happy life. Work ethnics and late retirement, money chase and wealth worship, egoistic individual right, collective serfdom, illusions of happiness derived from consumptions, transactional human relations …
Be critical to social values upheld by the majority, some of which are just social hypnotism counter-productive for a happy life. Don’t be afraid to become unpopular if one’s views do not coincide with those of the majority.
Inculcate the habit of analyzing pros/cons, costs/benefits, available choices, consequences, practicality and implementation issues before taking actions/making decisions.
Tactics: Be critical of the hypnotic influences of the mass media. Watch less TV but read more books on thinking skills and accumulate wisdom through learning and concrete life experiences. Exchange ideas with friends/mentors to stimulate lateral thinking and counteract one’s irrational subjectivity.
Meet Challenge and Reciprocate with Response; Actively Seek Challenges
Human growth depends on challenge and response. No one is ready for a developmental task before it comes. Most of our human potentials are underdeveloped due to our self-limiting tendencies.
The stretching approach is most conducive to growth. Try novel tasks and learn by doing. Set oneself seemingly unreachable goals and strive to achieve it by stretching one’s abilities. However, one should only measure “success” in personal terms and avoid the pitfall of interpersonal comparison.
Take risks to venture into higher levels of life with a view to fostering growth. Set excellence, but not perfection, nor mere getting ahead of others, as one’s performance standard.
Open to Novel Experiences and Expand Spontaneous Behavioral Repertoires
Experience life with full absorption and concentration and enrich it with novel experiences and creative experimentation. Live an authentic life by listening to one’s own feelings in evaluating personal experiences rather than to voices of tradition, authority, or the majority.
Pursue novel experiences in one’s social environment and explore personal feelings. Respond to people spontaneously. Act out different roles and adopt different attitudes from time to time to gauge what is most conducive to happiness. Imbue oneself with a sense of humor, mischievous liveliness and the feeling that life is fun.
Embrace diversity and accept others for what they are. Learn the best from a variety of cultures in the world. Study others’ belief systems and religions and explore the realm of spirituality.
Keep in touch with nature and one’s natural environment. Experience Homo sapiens' natural heritage, cultural heritage, as well as the cosmos.
Tactics: Learn a new skill or hobby each year, be it swimming, driving, playing a musical instrument, painting, gardening, sky watching… Pastime and recreation enrich one’s life and extend one’s life span.
Out-reaching for Social Learning, and for Help
Cultivate intimate relationship with a few and establish an extensive social network. Interact with others and learn from others’ ways of leading a happy life. Also beware of counter-examples and learn from unhappy life-styles. Seek living experiences in foreign cultures since this provides insight to the strength and weakness of one’s own way of living.
Tactics: During setback and depression help oneself by asking for counseling assistance. Objectivity and maturity of the helpers can trigger one’s own break-through. Asking for help requires one’s courage and one’s trust of other human being’s good will.
Deliberately Adopt a Happy and Healthy Living Style
Deliberately choose a life style conducive to longevity and happiness. Balance work with play, gregariousness with solitude, thinking with action, exertion with rest, mental work with exercise. List the activities that make one happy and increase their frequencies.
By Stewart Yeung: first draft completed on 24 Feb 2009
"On becoming a person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy" by Carl Rogers, London: Constable, 1961
“Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Sidney Newton Bremer, Lexington: Successful Achievement, Inc., 1971
“The Seasons of a Man’s Life” by Daniel J. Levinson, New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 1985
“Tactics” by Edward de Bono, London: Collins, 1985
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, New York: Simon Schuster, 1989