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The Fulfillment Curve

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 1 month ago

The Fulfillment Curve

The Fulfillment Curve (see inset illustrations) shows the relationship between the experience of fulfillment (vertical axis) and the amount of money we spend -- usually for more stuff (horizontal axis). In the beginning of our lives, more stuff did indeed mean more fulfillment. Basic needs were met. We were fed. We were warm. We were sheltered. When we were uncomfortable, when we cried, something came from the outside to take care of us. Our needs were filled. We survived. Our minds recorded each such incident and remembered: Look outside yourself and you will be fulfilled.



We then went from bare necessities (food, clothing, shelter) to some amenities (toys, a wardrobe, a bicycle) and the positive relationship between money and fulfillment got even more embedded. Remember your excitement when you got your Captain Midnight Decoder Ring or baseball mitt or Barbie doll? If our parents were being responsible, they soon taught us, "Those things cost money, dear. Money that we go out and earn for you -- because we love you." We got an allowance to learn the value of money. We could select and purchase happiness ourselves! And so it went, year after year.


Eventually we slipped beyond amenities to outright luxuries -- and hardly registered the change. A car, for example, is a luxury that 92 percent of the world's population never gets. For us, however, our first car is the beginning of a life-long love affair with the automobile.

Notice that while each new acquisition may have still been a thrill, it cost more per thrill and the "high" wore off quicker. But by then we believed that money equals fulfillment, so we barely noticed that the curve had started to level out. On we went into life. House. Job. Family responsibilities. More money brought more worry. More time and energy commitments as we rose up the corporate ladder. More time away from home. More to lose if we are robbed, so more worry about being robbed. More taxes and more tax accountant fees. Therapist bills. Remodeling bills. Just-keeping-the-kids-happy bills.

Until one day we find ourselves sitting, unfulfilled, in our 4,000-square-foot home on 2.5 wooded acres with a hot tub in the back yard and Nautilus equipment in the basement, yearning for the life we had as poor college students who could find joy in a walk in the park. We hit a fulfillment ceiling and never recognized that the formula of money = fulfillment had not only stopped working but had started to work against us. No matter how much we bought, the Fulfillment Curve kept heading down.



There's a very interesting place on our curve -- it's the peak. Part of the secret to life, it would seem, comes from identifying for oneself that point of maximum fulfillment: ENOUGH. Enough for our survival. Enough comforts. And even enough little "luxuries." We have everything we need; there's nothing extra to weigh us down, distract or distress us, nothing we've bought on time, never used and are slaving to pay off.































Enough is appreciating and fully enjoying what money brings into our lives, yet never purchasing anything that isn't needed and wanted. It's a powerful and free place -- the launching point for cultivating the kind of fulfillment that money can't buy.   When personal needs and wants are fulfilled, our locus of interest expands.  We seek to address the needs and comforts or family members and friends, then our community, our nation, our world.  Our personal freedom allows us the opportunity to be concerned for others, our surroundings, and our affect on the world as a whole.  In short, we find the freedom to devote our life energy to participate in the larger circles of life.  We call this participation SERVICE.




When we recognize ourselves as part of a larger whole, the entire picture shifts. We are not "just one person." We are part of Life - one thread among millions in this unfolding that is already whole. 


When we do, we see opportunities where before there were only obstacles. We find hidden talents and hidden reserves of energy. We begin to know ourselves as sufficiently creative, noble, industrious, wise and wily to get the job done. Through a commitment to service, we learn right relationship with all of life - how we "fit," what we're "fit for" and what choices are "fitting." Service to others and to the planet provides the perfect tempering environment wherein individuals of real mettle are forged. It is the obvious and essential follow-through for people who have taken the first step of personal lifestyle change.


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