Going beyond personal fulfilment

Success takes on a fresh new flavour when you do what you love doing with the intent of serving others and not just for personal fulfilment

Hand offering help to a woman in need

I used to believe that all I needed for professional success and personal fulfilment was to discover my passion and make it my occupation. I used to think that if only I did what I loved doing, I would never have to struggle, and everything will be effortless and I will live happily ever after. I grew up convinced that if I would spend my days doing what I loved, I would enjoy each day, and work would become play.

How wrong I was! How petty my outlook! How narrow my vision!

It’s the intent that really matters

Although being a square peg in a square hole is a necessary condition for happiness, by no means is it sufficient. Doing what I love as a profession certainly made effort less painful and more enjoyable, but there was a sense of emptiness and restlessness—a feeling of struggle. It felt as if I was rowing my boat against an invisible tide or walking uphill with a heavy load, all alone. No doubt passion for my work provided me with the energy to keep moving—but still, the whole effort somehow seemed wasteful and avoidable. There must be a better way, I told myself.

Then I discovered that the problem lay in my intent. I noticed that when I was involved in a selfless act, everything came to me easily, as if under grace. On the other hand, when I did what I loved doing only towards the fulfilment of my own needs—financial or otherwise—I was bound to feel incomplete and discontent.

Personal success is not equal to contentment

I am an intrinsic part of the environment I live in—its people, its animals, its resources—everything. When I am focussed on achieving my greatest potential without regard to my world, I may work hard and do whatever it takes, but my end goal is individual, personal. In the past I followed my dreams and goals because I was raised to subscribe to the capitalistic view of the world, which says that individuals need to think for themselves and maximise their own wellbeing.

But when has the part ever been more well than the whole?

No matter how it appears, I can never truly prosper and feel well when all I think about is myself. I may succeed in accumulating wealth and finding fame but authentic happiness will evade me, peace of mind will remain a dream, and life will always seem like struggle. Being self-centred, I may reach great heights of success and take pride in my achievement but it will lack the contentment that comes when I join forces with the greater intelligence that makes the sun rise, the flowers bloom and the earth spin on its axis.

Moving away from personal fulfilment and glory

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Rabindranath Tagore

That is why I have this longing to let go of my quest for personal success and instead focus on serving others, be useful to the environment of which I am an inseparable part. Of course I can continue to do what I love doing, but the intent now is not personal fulfilment and glory but the betterment of my world. I believe that doing so lets me flow with the tide because I am now involved in cooperating with the collective intent of greater good.

Success takes on a fresh new flavour when you do what you love doing in service of your fellow beings and the planet. I am born with many gifts and I have realised that I find my bliss in giving them away. What I receive in return is invaluable: the support of the whole Universe.


A version of this article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing magazine.

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri considers himself a student and teacher of the wisdom of love. He is also a writer-editor and has written on topics ranging from strategic marketing and business management to art, culture and even philosophy. His more than 1200 published stories—articles, interviews, full-length features—have appeared in some of the leading newspapers and magazines of India. A certified cognitive behavioural therapist, he works as a personal counsellor too. He is the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed book based on powerful ideas of some of the greatest thought leaders. Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".

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