Why Do We Do What We Do in Life?

Why do we do what we do in life? Let me make the question easier: what is the purpose of what we do in life? I asked this question in an informal discussion with my friends. There were many answers: for happiness: to progress; to succeed; to help oneself and others; and so on. All these answers can be captured in one word: fulfillment. We do what we do to fulfill our needs and wishes.

Life is a journey to fulfill. Irrespective of the causes we support and priorities we set up, living inherently traverses on fulfillment. Satisfaction from accomplishment and consequent happiness derived are the norms based on which fulfillment is measured. Conversely, we are left with a feeling of unfulfillment when we do not achieve what we set our sights on.  Fulfillment is an end in itself, with the means — causes and priorities — getting changed as we course through various stages of life.

Fulfillment is two-dimensional: self-fulfilling and selfless-fulfilling. Self-fulfilling is all that you do for yourself while selfless-fulfillment is all that you do for your fellow beings and society. It is important that one keeps one’s fulfillment-basket filled with causes and priorities of both self – personal — and selfless – societal — elements. To what extent a person is acceding to his/her self-fulfilling wishes differentiates an autocrat from an accommodating person. An autocrat believes in personal aggrandizement and does everything possible in that direction, and in this process, his/her fulfillment basket has only personal causes and priorities. On the other hand, an accommodating-person’s self-fulling wishes are open to house others’ needs.

Personal-element brings in a mix of success and failure as we know. In other words, sense of fulfillment from personal milestones can be complete or incomplete. Even if you manage to have success and feel self-fulfilled, the most important  lesson that success teaches is that it is plain at the peak. So fulfillment from personal achievement can get plateaued as you stand more and more on the pedestal of success. There are many people around us who achieved everything that they wished for, still, feel empty and happiness-plateaued. And this is because their basket of fulfillment had only self-fulfilling wishes and was devoid of self-less fulfillment elements. 

On the other hand, societal-elements like charity give satisfaction and happiness unconditionally, for GIVING itself is happiness — there are no expectations of any tangible returns. Hence, societal-elements can make one’s fulfillment-basket significantly filled with and even capable of balancing out the incomplete feeling arising out of unaccomplished goals or fatigue from self-fulfillment plateau. Charity is intended to lessen human suffering. It is said that being sensitive to human suffering, a sign of goodness, is the underlying force behind charity. We can possibly interpret that such a mindset is an offshoot of the bigger goal of fulfillment. Social-element of being part of and contributing to charity opens up a way to satisfaction and happiness at individual level. In other words, selfless-fulfillment flows into and merges with self-fulfillment. 

Why we do what we do? Fulfillment. Include others also  in “your what.” A man who has social causes and priorities, along with personal causes and priorities, in his basket of fulfillment, is geared toward a more fulfilling life.

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