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Satisfaction versus Achievement


I recently came across an author who suggests that happiness comes from satisfaction, not from achievement and I thought about all my unsatisfied clients over the decades who had achieved so much but rarely felt that what they’d done was enough or was up to par. And so off they went seeking satisfaction with food.

Satisfaction is a quirky thing, but hardly elusive. You can feel satisfied watching a spell-binding movie or TV series, reading a book about the Civil War, weeding the garden or making a four-course meal. These are just a few of the activities that can bring satisfaction, as can getting a solid night’s sleep or cleaning out the garage. Satisfaction doesn’t come from the party you’re attending, but from what you bring to it.

That is, it comes from a deeply felt sense of pleasure in what you’re doing. It’s not about what you’ll tell people after you’re done with an activity, but what you’re feeling as you’re plodding or plowing through it, leaning into it, or doing nothing and letting it completely sweep you off your feet. You don’t need to be skilled at something to feel satisfied doing it either. Your first carefully spoken sentence in a foreign language may be as thrilling as acing an advanced grammar test. Your first foray cautiously making your way down the beginner’s ski slope may be as satisfying as barreling down an expert trail.

Satisfaction is not about how much or how little and it doesn’t come from measuring yourself against someone else. Whether you’re better or worse, smarter or thinner than another person won’t bring you lasting satisfaction, which is the kind you want. It’s there when you look back in time and see yourself doing things you enjoyed even if no one was watching. Satisfaction is uniquely about you: what floats your boat, what wind blows your boat along, what you do that cracks you wide open and lets joy flood right through you.

Consider what brings you satisfaction. Yes, feel free to include a tasty meal or snack, eaten in silence with your eyes closed. Satisfactions are often minor, not major. Mine include devouring books by authors I love, scratching my cat’s belly, a walk by the ocean, writing a sentence that makes my heart sing, blogging, learning a new dance step, having a deep conversation with an old friend, making a new friend, going to a party where I know and like everyone, finding clothes I love that fit, or folding freshly clean laundry on a lazy Sunday afternoon. 

Do you know what satisfaction feels like or have you been faking it for so long you’ve forgotten? Think of three things that would satisfy you and do one of them right now.