What does it mean to live a fulfilling and meaningful life?
If you search the web as I have, you’re bound to find several answers. Answers like focus on long-term happiness, tap into your full potential, discover your purpose, foster good relationships, and so on. The deeper you dig, the more you’re likely to find.
Those are all great ideas, but they’re also pretty vague and directionless. If we’re searching for how to live a fulfilling life, we need more than answers. We need a robust list of goals, that will help us live a meaningful life, and that’s exactly what I’m going to give you!
But before we jump into the list of goals, I want to mention that most of these are habit goals, not achievement goals.
Achievement goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals. They are time-keyed goals usually have a finish line that you can reach.
Habit goals, on the other hand, do not have a finish line per se. They work by breaking achievement goals down into smaller pieces. For example, if I want to read 12 books per year, I could set a habit goal of reading for 30 minutes per day or reading a set number of pages per day.
Habit goals can also help you move the needle on aspirational things. I picked up the concept of Habit Goals from Michael Hyatt, and he uses the example of “Growing closer to God,” which is a little vague, yet aspirational.
By setting a habit goal to read his bible for 20 minutes per day, he can work towards growing closer to God. There’s no finish line in sight, and the habit goal doesn’t move him closer to a finish line because there’s always the opportunity to be a little closer to God.
The list of habits goals I’ve outlined below will help you live a fulfilling life. Living a fulfilling life isn’t something you can check a box on—it’s an attitude, and it’s something you have to strive for every day.
Below is the ultimate list of 29 goals that you can set in the coming years. Best of all, they’re broken out into categories so that you can start with any area of your life that you want:
- Goal #1-8: Focus on Long-Term Happiness
- Goal #9-15: Foster Deep Relationships
- Goal #16-23: Tap Into Your Full Potential
- Goal #24-29: Discover and Live Purpose-Driven Life
Let’s dive into the list of goals now:
1. Start a Gratitude Journal
If you haven’t heard of gratitude journaling, it’s essentially the practice of beginning each day by writing down 3 to 5 things for which you’re truly grateful. Your spouse, your health, your favorite movie—whatever it is, you would write 3 to 5 things down each morning.
The practice is powerful because it starts your day out with a positive mindset. Though bad things may be happening in your life, there’s always something good too, and gratitude journaling is a way to find that perspective.
You can start your gratitude journal in a notebook, or you can buy a guided journal like The Five-Minute Journal from Amazon. There are a ton of options to help you through this practice, but whatever you choose, be sure to journal daily.
2. Create a Life Plan
A life plan is crucial! In Living Forward, a book by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, the authors show that creating a life plan is the best way to ensure you live a fulfilling life.
A life plan will help you identify where you want to be 5, 10, 25, or even 50 years from now. What are your long term goals? How do you want to be remembered once you’re gone? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
When most people reach the end of their life, they regret how they lived. They wish they had done more, risked more, tried more, and so on. Life planning changes that and leads to long-term happiness!
You can find out more on creating a detailed life plan online, but Living Forward provides detailed, step-by-step instructions that are extremely valuable. I highly recommend the read.
3. Develop a Healthy Exercise Routine
The power of exercise cannot be understated. Exercise has been shown to increase happiness , health, mood, energy levels and more! Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.
When we exercise, we release several hormones, most of which lead to a feeling of happiness and because exercise leads to better long-term health, we’re going to be happier when we get older. When we feel good, we’re happy.
Set a habit goal to exercise 3-5 times per week if you can, but 2-3 times per week would be a great way to start!
4. Find a Way to Give Back
Volunteering made it on my list of goals because it’s been shown to be fulfilling and to improve happiness. In a paper published by Harvard Health, the authors discovered that volunteers benefit from what they call the “happiness effect.” According to their study, volunteering leads to happiness levels comparable to a life-changing salary boost.
Volunteering and helping those less fortunate than ourselves puts life into perspective, helps combat depression, provides a sense of purpose, and so much more.
If you’re looking for a way to live a fulfilling life, find a volunteer opportunity that you’re passionate about and set a habit goal to volunteer as often as you can.
5. Start a Creative Hobby
Believe it or not, we all have innate creative abilities. Finding a way to express our creativity through a hobby is a great way to focus on long-term happiness.
When most people think of creativity, they think of the fine arts: art, music, writing, etc, but creativity comes in many forms.
Programmers and architects have to solve creative problems. People who love to cook can be creative in the kitchen. People who love plants and flowers can be creative in their landscaping—you can find creativity almost everywhere.
Perform some self-reflection and identify your creative ability and find a way to express it routinely. I know people who love to brew their own beer, make their own clothes, refurbish old furniture, and so on. The thing they all have in common is that they’re happy when they’re expressing their creativity through a hobby.
6. Become More Mindful
If you want to live a fulfilling life, you have to learn to live in the present.
When we over analyze our mistakes or continually look to our past regrets, we forget to live in the present. How can we feel the joy of today if we’re still allowing ourselves to suffer from our past?
On the other hand, if we’re always anxiously awaiting the future, we forget to see the value in the present. It’s good to have goals and strive for future success, but we can’t forget about today. Mother Teresa said,
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today.”
With that in mind, we need to set a goal to live more mindfully in the present. Your new gratitude journal is a good start towards being mindful, but you can also meditate or take some breaks throughout the day to cherish the moments you experience throughout the day.
If it helps, set a reminder to check in on your thoughts and feelings several times per day and write them in your journal.
7. Be Kind Daily
Another great way to practice mindfulness is to share kindness. Even when I’m in a bad mood, I try to find a way to be kind to strangers several times per day. It could be the chatting with the bagger at the grocery store, holding the door for someone, or even letting someone in or out of traffic on the way home.
We all have bad days, stressful deadlines, and a variety of unseen things going on in our lives, and it’s easy to disconnect from other people, but sharing kindness is a great way to reconnect with people.
You may never see the result, but simply saying “Hi, how are you?” to a stranger may improve their day significantly. Sharing kindness tells other people that you care—that there are still people in the world who care for other people. It’s a great feeling!
8. Seek Personal Growth
No list of goals is complete without some mention of personal development . If you want to live a truly fulfilling life, you must grow as a person.
I recommend setting a goal to read at least one personal development book per month. If you’re not a fan of reading, try and audiobook on Audible or Overdrive or watch out a personal development guru on YouTube or tune into a podcast once per week.
One of the most common regrets people have at the end of life is the feeling of not living up to their fullest potential. By exploring personal development and setting goals, you force yourself to grow and as you grow, so will your relationships with the people around you.
9. Do Away with Bad Relationships
This may seem counterproductive, but if you want to build deep and meaningful relationships, you have to get rid of the bad ones first.
Maintaining bad relationships is a drain on your time, energy, and happiness. It’s never easy to cut things off with an old friend, but if you want to live a fulfilling life, you need to examine your relationships and strengthen the ones that matter.
For every minute you spend pursuing a bad relationship, you could be letting one of your better relationships suffer.
Set a goal to review your relationships, strengthen the good ones, and phase out the bad ones. It may be difficult at first, but you’ll feel lighter a happier in no time.
10. Surround Yourself with People You Admire
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
If we want to grow into our greatest potential, live fulfilling lives, and achieve life-long happiness and success, we must surround ourselves with successful, kind, and positive people.
Whether we like it or not, the attitudes, world views, and mindsets of the people we spend time with rub off on us, so we must choose our relationships wisely.
Take some time to think about what your ideal life looks like and then pursue relationships with people who share that vision or who are already living it. Allow them to mentor and mold you into the person you want to be and always look for ways to give back to those people as well.
11. Schedule Routine Phone Calls
Life is super busy these days, and it can be challenging to remember to check in with family and friends. It may not be that you don’t want to talk to your family or friends—it could be that you’re too busy to remember.
Set a recurring reminder in your phone for calling each person you’re trying to stay in touch with. Texts, emails, and snapchats are great for sharing memes and quick thoughts, but a five- to ten-minute phone call once or twice a week is so much more impactful.
I usually spend my ten-minute commute home chatting with loved ones on speakerphone. It’s the perfect amount of time time to catch up on recent events and it’s way more productive than listening to bad radio commercials.
12. Do Something New Together Once a Month
Do you have a spouse, significant other, or best friend that you would like to be closer to? Doing something new together once a month is an excellent goal for strengthening your relationship.
Trying new things is a great way to create an exciting shared experience which builds closeness in the relationship. And if you have time, you can do this with as many people as you like, but if you’re as busy as I am, you may only have time to do this with one lucky person in your life.
Give it a try! Set a goal to try something new with someone you love next month. Half of the fun is in looking for that new thing to do.
13. Volunteer Together
Volunteering is a great way to spend time with loved ones, especially if you can find a cause that everyone in your group is passionate about. Set a goal to volunteer as a group every month.
Pick a cause that you’re collectively passionate about and schedule your volunteer dates well in advance and make a day of it. Get together beforehand, volunteer together, grab dinner together after, and talk about your day together.
When you’re fostering deep relationships, sharing experiences are a great way to feel connected, especially if you’re giving back to the community as a group.
14. Have Deep and Vulnerable Conversations
The best and most cherished relationships blossom from a foundation of trust, and a great way to build trust is through being vulnerable with one another.
The next time you and your friends get together try having a deep and vulnerable conversation. Reveal some of your fears, secret passions, or even dream goals.
You might be surprised how these more in-depth topics will help your relationships grow. Better yet, you might find an ally for one of your dream goals.
15. Spend One Evening Not Talking About Yourself
Admittedly, this one was hard for me, but setting a goal to spend an entire evening not talking about yourself is a great way to discover more about the people you care for.
Instead of relating to their stories by tying in one of your own, just keep asking questions about them and their experiences.
It will be difficult at first, but it will get more comfortable, I promise!
16. Do Something that Scares You
In my early twenties, I swore I would never go scuba diving because I’m deathly afraid of sharks. However, in 2015, my boss talked me into trying it on a trip to the Grand Cayman Islands and I loved it!
Since then, scuba diving has been one of my favorite new hobbies, and although I can’t go as often as I’d like, I’m forever grateful that I tried it. Better yet, I now actively try things that scare me just to see what else I may love — Snowboarding, check; Sky-diving, Here I come!
Set a goal for yourself to try one new thing this month that scares you. You may love it!
17. Take a Risk
This goal is similar to trying something new that scares you, but in this situation, you know that there is a logical risk involved.
Doing something that scares you involves emotion. Take scuba diving, for example. There’s very little to fear on a guided dive. I was afraid, but there was little risk.
With a risk, you can see two possible outcomes: one in your favor and one not so much. Is there something you’ve been afraid to try based on a potentially negative outcome?
For example, starting a business may seem risky, especially if you have to quit your current job. On one hand, you could face financial hardships. On the other hand, you could experience wealth beyond your wildest dreams.
If you want to live a fulfilled life, you have to take chances; otherwise, you’ll always look back and wonder what might have been. Growth happens when we step beyond our comfort zone and take a risk .
Be courageous. Take a risk.
18. Read Personal Development Books or Audiobooks
I’ve found personal development books to be one of my greatest teachers, so no list of goals is complete without them. I’ve learned so much more about myself and the world around me than I ever thought possible. Truly!
There’s so much information out there that will help you grow, and most of it is never taught in school.
If you want to tap into your fullest potential, start with personal development. Set a goal for yourself to read or listen to one personal development book per month and watch your life transform!
19. Ask for More Responsibility at Work
Another great way to tap into your potential is to ask for more responsibility at work. If you ask for more work and you receive a task you don’t know how to do, embrace the opportunity to learn a new skill.
Have you ever heard the old saying “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”? Well, it’s true!
Some of life’s greatest experiences come from trying new and challenging things. What better place to try new things than at work? Try it this week!
20. Find a Mentor
I cannot talk about the power of mentorship and its effects on living a fulfilling life enough. Mentors can point out our weaknesses, blind spots, and areas that need improving. A good mentor will help you reach new levels in your life.
You can read more about the importance of mentorship here.
Set a goal for yourself to find a great mentor in the area of your life that you want to improve the most. You won’t regret it!
21. Teach or Mentor Someone Behind You
They say that the best way to learn is to teach and I’ve always found this to be true.
When you decide to teach someone, you realize just how much more you need to know. A mentee will always ask new questions. This will force you to level up continually and push your knowledge to higher levels.
Even if you don’t think you have much to offer, remember this:
No matter where you are in life, there’s always someone behind you looking up to you.
If you want to feel fulfilled, find a mentee, reach out, and help them along. Teach them the things you’ve learned, and you’ll learn just as much throughout the process.
22. Embrace Failure
Of everything on this list of goals, embracing failure can be one of the toughest! No one likes to fail, but it’s in failure that we can learn some of life’s greatest lessons. John Maxwell teaches that:
“Sometimes you win—sometimes you learn.”
When we think we’ve failed, we can take a step back and evaluate the situation. Chances are, there’s a profound lesson that you can learn and try again more intelligently.
You only truly fail when you quit. So, the next time you find yourself bummed about a failure, embrace it and learn from it. It’s not easy at first, but the more you practice reflecting on your failures, the more comfortable it will become and the wiser you will become.
23. Identify Your Strengths, Weaknesses, and Personality Type
Don’t we all hate that interview question: “What’s your biggest weakness?” I know I do!
But there’s a lot of value and wisdom in knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and your personality type. You can’t live a fulfilling life if you’re chasing a dream for which you’re ill-equipped. If you’re 4 foot and 8 inches tall, chances are you won’t be an NBA star.
Me, I’m musically challenged—it’s not one of my innate abilities in the slightest. So, I know not to pursue music. If I wanted to pursue music, I would probably face an unfulfilling life of frustration, but I’m at peace with this limitation.
My innate abilities lie with helping people. For some reason, people around me feel comfortable confiding in me and asking me for guidance, so I embrace this strength and try to help as many people as I can.
So, what can you do? Set a goal for yourself to find out your strengths and weaknesses. Take tests like Strength Finder, Enneagram, or Myers-Briggs and find out what makes you tick. Then, you can focus on your strengths and work towards living a purpose-driven life.
24. Discover Your Dreams with Blue Sky Thinking
No matter what season of life you find yourself in—no matter how old you are—it’s never too late to dream.
If you haven’t heard of Blue Sky Thinking, it’s the act of thinking about your future as if you had no limits to speak of—your dream life.
Can you imagine that?
What would you do if you could do anything?
Blue Sky Thinking is a technique for helping you discover what you’re genuinely passionate about. Take a few minutes or an afternoon to journal out what your dream life looks like and hold nothing back. It’s an imaginary future.
Then, return to reality and start setting some goals to move towards that dream. Anything is possible—you just have to take the first step and believe.
25. Define Your Values
What matters to you?
This is a question that many people fail to think about. It’s tough to live a fulfilling life if you’re living a life that isn’t congruent with your values. For example, I value honesty, integrity, hard work, and trust.
What kind of life would I be living if I were always breaking promises, avoiding work, or lying to those around me? Probably an unpleasant one, right?
What are your values? Sit down and journal your way through what matters to you and what’s most important to you.
If your values are family, spend as much time with your family as possible. If your values are the environment, do your part to save our planet.
If you identify your values and live them every day, you’re bound to live a fulfilling life full of joy.
26. Be Your Authentic You Every Day
Have you ever heard of Bronnie Ware?
Until recently, I hadn’t.
Bronnie is an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives while recording their dying epiphanies.
Through her career, she discovered that most people shared the same five regrets at the end of life with this one making the top of the list:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
With that in mind, why would we spend another minute trying to be someone we’re not?
If you’ve taken time to discover your values, your strengths, weaknesses, personality types, and so on, you’re getting closer to knowing your true self.
Of everything on this list of goals, this one is probably the most nebulous, but it’s pretty simple:
Focus on living life as your authentic self every day. Don’t live to regret who you were.
27. Try New Things
I come across so many people who are doing the same things day out. I’ve heard people say “There’s nothing to do in this city” even though they haven’t done 10% of what the city has to offer.
It’s easy to get bored with the same old things, but it’s also easy to try new things. Like I mentioned before, I thought I would hate scuba diving but ended up loving it. How many opportunities have you declined because they didn’t sound “fun”?
How many times have you said no to new things because it was easier to stay in and binge Netflix?
I get it! I’ve been there!
But if you want to live a fulfilling, purpose-driven life, you have to try new things. Trust me, your purpose isn’t to do the same old things every day. We’re meant to explore. We’re meant to seek excitement!
Who knows, maybe your very best friend is someone you haven’t even met yet. Perhaps your favorite hobby is the thing you haven’t tried yet.
The only way to know what you’re made for is to try as many things as possible. Give it a try this very weekend!
28. Find a Career You’re Passionate About
Speaking of trying new things, are you one of the many who are working a job that you hate? Maybe you don’t hate it, but you’d really rather not go in tomorrow? Either way, you don’t have to keep working the same job you have.
In fact, the best time to look for a new job is when you already have one, so why not explore the possibilities?
Apply for some jobs that you think you may not get. Go on some interviews just for fun! Even if you don’t get the job, you can get some valuable practice and meet several new people along the way.
There’s no reason to keep working a job you don’t enjoy. On average, Americans spend 90,000 hours at work, roughly a third of their lives. Why waste it doing something you despise? Even if you don’t switch jobs this year, set a goal to go on at least three interviews for jobs that intrigue you.
You might just get lucky and land your dream job!
29. Defend Your Dream by Saying “NO!” to Everything Else
If you’re fortunate enough to know your dream or your purpose, the worst thing you could do is fail to live it because you’re busy doing everything else.
Take it from me:
I used to say yes to everything. I thought it would help me climb the ranks at work, make new friends, get me noticed, and so on.
Guess what? It doesn’t work! Everyone has an agenda, an emergency, an opportunity—but that doesn’t mean you have to say yes to everything that comes along.
Sure, if someone asks you to do something new and exciting and you want to give it a try, go for it! But only if you really want to. Just don’t lose track of your own goals and dreams while you’re busy saying yes to everyone else.
Once you’ve identified your dreams, goals, and long-term vision, defend it by saying no to anything that gets in your way. There’s no better way to live a purpose-driven, fulfilling life than to know you’ve always lived towards your dreams.
Summing It up
So, if you’ve made it this far, you must be serious about living a fulfilling life, and I commend you for it.
Here’re some final thoughts how the above list of goals help you lead a more fulfilling life:
Focus on Long Term Happiness
Living a fulfilling life often begins with a strong focus on happiness.
But sadly, the lack of happiness is a huge problem today. With people creating highlight reels for all to see on social media, FOMO and jealousy are at an all-time high. With careers being more competitive than ever, people are spending more time at work than with loved ones, and they’re burning out. With the fast-paced world we live in, people feel like they’re being left behind.
So to find happiness in spite of all the noise and start living a more fulfilling life, goal #1-8 can help you.
Foster Deep Relationships
One of the most significant contributors to long-term happiness and living a fulfilling life is fostering deep, meaningful relationships with the people in your life.
Harvard’s 75-year Grant and Glueck studies has shown that the key to long-term happiness and fulfillment are our relationships:
“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
So, if we’re trying to set goals that are going to contribute to a long and meaningful life, we need to tackle a list of goals that help us foster deep relationships with our friends and family. And this is what goal #9-15 can do.
Tap Into Your Full Potential
One of the worst things you can experience as you get older is the nagging feeling that you could have done more, been more, or achieved more.
So many of us coast through life, merely floating along with no thought of our potential. If you want to live a fulfilled life, you need to explore your potential, tap into it, and see it realized. But doing so takes courage.
When you take a risk, you face the chance of experiencing disappointment and maybe even failure, but nothing is worse than never having tried.
You can never know what you’re capable of until you know where your boundaries are, and you can never know where your boundaries are without stepping over them.
And so goal #16-23 are designed to help you step beyond your comfort zone and into your greatest potential.
Discover and Live Purpose-Driven Life
If you don’t know your purpose, you should take some time to discover it. At the end of our lives, we’re all going to look back and wonder if we mattered, if we made an impact on those around us, and if we lived with purpose.
Today, as you read this post, you have two choices: breeze past goal #24-29 and carry on with your life or pause for a moment and consider this list of goals and discover your purpose in life.
If you’re looking to live a fulfilling life, I hope you’ll do the latter.
It’s not easy taking control of your life. It’s not easy tuning out the noise and focusing on what matters: your happiness, your relationships, your potential, and your purpose.
But you’re here! You’re committed to living your best life, and if you pursue the list of goals within this article, you’re guaranteed to do just that. Good luck!
Featured photo credit: Will Li via unsplash.com