How To Feel Fulfilled: Tools From Aristotle (or Ari as I call him)
Ari has some interesting beliefs about success and fulfilment. According to Ari, to be your happiest self, you must live up to your fullest human potential – which means tapping into:
your Universal Function
your Specific Function
I’ll be describing both of these 2 functions in this short essay – and explaining why it’s essential to tap into 2 out of 2 if you want to feel truly fulfilled.
First, let’s start with your Universal Function.
According to Ari, every single human has a shared universal function – a thing which only we humans can do – that no other animal on this planet is capable of doing. (And no, it’s not opening up peanutbutter jars with the aid of our opposable thumbs!)
We humans are the only animal capable of rational thought.
Aristotle was realistic about how often people use this “function” – and purposefully referenced the word “capable” in that phrase “capable of rational thought.” Ari understood that unfortunately not everybody was tapping into this special human potential of rational thought – and thereby not everybody was thinking clearly and making their highest level choices.
Ari believed it was absolutely essential to put in the effort of conscious thought – and live a conscious, awake life. He believed this for two reasons.
1. In order to be your fullest potential as a human being you need to use all your unique human capabilities.
2. When you’re putting in the effort of using “rational thought” – you’re able to gain your highest level of insight – which leads to making the wisest choices – which leads to acting with your highest core values – which leads to growing into your best self.
For both these reasons — and more — Ari believed tapping into your universal function of “rational thought” was the first half of snagging the full motherlode of living a truly fulfilling life.
And that second half?
YOU MUST DO YOUR SPECIFIC FUNCTION
Ari believed that everybody has their special Specific Function – a unique thing which only you as an individual can do – and you can do it better than anyone else.
The specific function of a physician is to heal.
The specific function of a ship builder is to build great ships.
The specific function of an ice sculpturist is to make big, beautiful ice swans.
Because when you’re doing your Specific Function you’re pursuing your highest potential – and thereby you’re on your way to reaching your highest fulfillment.
I know personally that I love writing books. Writing is what I’m uniquely meant to do for sure – my “Specific Function.” And I also know that when I’m writing, I experience some of my deepest happiness and fulfillment. I even lose track of time. Plus, doing my Specific Function of writing keeps me feeling balanced, calm, sane. I know that even when I’ve gone through what I call a challenging “Vortex Mode,” I’ve been able to stay happy and fulfilled, because I’ve kept myself busy writing.
Aristotle would not be surprised to hear this about me and my writing. Ari very much believed that when you’re doing what you are meant to do – the unique thing that you do best (either as your career – or even as a hobby) then you’re cashing in on being your fullest potential – and thereby you receive the awesome side effects of true fulfillment.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you’re not doing your Specific Function, then you’re NOT cashing in on becoming your highest potential – and thereby you will have a harder time feeling true fulfillment.
For example, an oil trader, who amasses a great fortune, but is only doing habits that stroke his ego – but that don’t nurture his soul – this oil trader will ALWAYS have a harder time feeling truly fulfilled – no matter the wealth they amass.
Aristotle’s ancient philosophy matches exactly with a recent research study by Amy Wrzesniewski, Ph.D., professor of management and organizational behavior at New York University. Amy found that people who reported the highest life satisfaction were those who viewed their work as a “calling” not a mere “job.”
In a way the word “calling” is another way to say “Specific Function.”
But here’s what’s even more interesting. According to Amy, what some people called a “calling” (aka Specific Function) wasn’t necessarily highly chic or interesting work. Some people who viewed themselves as doing their “calling” (aka Specific Function) were administrative assistants or sanitation workers. Many of these people even did the exact activity as folks who described their work as merely a “job.”
What separated their perspectives? The following 2 things.
- People who saw themselves as having a calling described their work as requiring their unique skillsets.
- People who saw themselves as having a calling believed that they were offering true value and improvement to their company! They believed that what they did helped people and mattered!
Not only does what Aristotle believed match with what Amy reported, Ari’s philosophies also matched with the philosophies of Carl Jung, one of the key founders of modern psychology.
Carl Jung believed that we humans all need a “life purpose” to be truly happy and fulfilled.
In a way, Carl’s “life purpose” matched with what Ari called a “Specific Function” and with what Amy called a “calling.”
Furthermore, Carl believed that when we humans don’t have a positive “high-level spiritual quest” to pursue, we as a result develop a “low-level spiritual quest” – in the form of a negative addiction. We over-pursue hedonistic things like shopping, food, sex, co-dependent relationships, alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc.. Basically, Carl Jung thought “low-level spiritual quests” were the back-up plan for not having a “Specific Function.”
Although over-indulging in lots of hedonistic things like shopping, eating, drinking (etc) might appear at first glance like “true happiness” – these pleasures don’t add to a person’s self development – so thereby they never make a person feel truly happy and fulfilled.
Do you know how Carl believed people could cure their negative addictions and find true fulfillment?
Carl believe that you had to do a “high level spiritual quest” (aka: your Specific Function, aka your Calling).
I personally totally agree with Ari, Amy and Carl. I believe the purpose of your life is to find and do the purpose of your life. And I hope that this short essay served as a gentle nudge to remind you to go out there and do your Specific Function, your Calling, your High Level Spiritual Question, your Purpose.