Gratitude ≠ Fulfillment

“I was coming to terms with the idea that there’s a difference between gratitude and fulfillment … I felt grateful for the work I was getting, but I wasn’t fulfilled.” I read this in a NYTimes interview with the actor Mahershala Ali, who’s in the new movie Moonlight. He was talking about how he came to his decision to leave his role in House of Cards which earned him an Emmy nomination.

When I read that I had to stop and take it in. Grateful but not fulfilled—it was so familiar.

Sometimes I feel guilty that, given everything I have, I want something more. If I want more does it mean I don’t appreciate what I have?

So I did what I always do when I need more info, I went to Google and looked up fulfillment: satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s abilities or character.

I like this definition because it makes room to appreciate what I have, and want more without feeling guilty that nothing is ever enough, or that I’m unsatisfied with my life.

It also makes the important point that fulfillment doesn’t come from ‘things’. We can’t shop or eat ourselves into fulfillment.

Fulfillment is about trying, it’s about pushing ourselves to find out what we are capable of.

To read that this successful actor was not fulfilled and was willing to take a risk to find something deeper and more meaningful made me think about where I am in my own life.

It’s not an easy thing to say but the truth is I am not fulfilled in my life right now. The more important truth, though, is that I am working on it. I am willing to take chances, to be uncomfortable, and to push myself because I have this deep knowing inside me that there is more for me to discover. I have this feeling that needing more is about my potential and what I have hidden from.

My current ‘more’ is about bringing more love, fun, community, and meaning into my life. And I have to admit, it is much more challenging than I would like.

I had built-in community and love as a mother and an Art Director in NYC but my daughter has left for college, I no longer work in magazines and most of the good friends I made over those years have moved out of the city.

The discomfort is right on the surface. The vulnerability of needing friends and community feels childish and at the same time it requires all my maturity and strength to admit it and figure out how to get it in my life. I’m working on it.

What about you?

Where do you want more in your life?

If you don’t know what might bring more satisfaction to your life you aren’t alone, but don’t let that stop you from thinking about it. To not think about it is to give up on the possibility of having it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment or better yet, and we can chat about it.

We all have the capacity to continue learning and growing as long as we are willing to make the effort (see my post on neuroplasticity).

Like what you read? Subscribe here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: