4 Easy Steps to a More Fulfilling Life
I Promise this Isn’t a Self-Help Blog
Greetings from Wales! I want to provide an update on the Bloom Briefing’s recent hiatus and what’s coming next. There’s also an invitation to participate in my current project.
Why haven’t I posted for a while?
It’s been a while since the last edition of the Bloom Briefing (which was actually supposed to go to the personal travel blog – oops, hope you enjoyed reading about the Canadian Rockies), so I wanted to provide an update on what’s been going on.
From late May to late June, we were traveling. We went from Umbria to Rome to Los Angeles to Calgary to Jasper to Banff to Canmore to Dublin to Cork to Killarney to Cahersiveen over a total of 29 days. And we had as many as 5 nights in the same place only once in that window. We loved it, but it also wasn’t conducive to a lot of time for reflection and writing.
Then, after settling down for a month-long stay in Cahersiveen (Southwestern Ireland), I contracted covid, which knocked me out for about 2 weeks. I’m vaxed and boosted, so the symptoms were never too bad, but I still ran a fever for a few days and was fatigued for significantly longer. An unpleasant experience, if not a dangerous one.
So I found myself emerging from the fuzziness of illness with about 2 weeks left before my parents arrived to join us for a few days in Cahersiveen and then a week of travel up to the coast and around to Northern Ireland. This also more or less coincided with the halfway point of our trip, which prompted a bit of reflection about what to focus my intellectual energies on for the remainder.
What am I working on now?
Given I’m in a transitional moment (I don’t have a job or a permanent residence), it’s perhaps unsurprising that I circled in on The Big Questions. This life interlude is an intentionally-designed time for reflection, so I want to spend time thinking about how to lead a meaningful/purposeful/fulfilling life. What, exactly, does that entail? What choices that we make influence how we feel about these big questions? What are key characteristics (if any) of people who attest to feeling more fulfilled?
Once I realized that those were the set of questions I was after, I did what any good researcher does and went to the literature. Here, however, I very quickly encountered a problem. These questions are ones that have been the focus of human inquiry for millennia. There’s a lot of literature. But two genres in particular stand out (and not in a good way).
First, there’s the philosophy. We can read Aristotle et al and attempt to derive insight. As an almost-philosophy major, I’ve already read a decent number of the important texts here, and I didn’t find many of them particularly insightful on these subjects even with high-quality instruction! They’re too abstract, engaged in way too much metaphysical speculation, and too far removed from modern questions. There’s insight in the classics, to be sure, but are they the best source for contemporary ethical questions? I think there are probably better sources. But not…
Second, there’s self-help. Google “how to lead a meaningful life” and all the top search results will be click-bait self-help. 9, 5, and 15 “ways to lead a meaningful life” all appear in the first page of results. As I dig deeper, I may have to return to this genre, but I didn’t want to start here – it’s not a genre that appeals, in part, I think, because I’ve always felt like it’s designed to make the hardest questions feel easy. “You, too, can lead a fulfilling life if you follow this six-step approach.” Something tells me if it were that easy, there’d be a lot less existential angst in the world.
What I really wanted to know was how other people were wrestling with this question of questions. The best way to discover that, of course, is to ask them! And as it happens, for many of us, the pandemic refocused our attention on questions of this nature. By disrupting our lives in so many ways (more or less time with family; less time with friends; less time at work; more or less time working; more time at home; less time traveling; etc.), it compelled many of us to reckon with the way many of these things had come into (or out of) balance in our lives.
Also as it happens, I have eight years of professional experience interviewing people about their shared problems and trying to uncover if they’ve found any innovative and replicable solutions. So I’ve begun interviewing folks. I’ve started with just a few friends, but gradually I hope to talk to a wider spectrum of people.
How you can participate, AKA 4 Easy Steps to a More Fulfilling Life
Agree to an interview. If you’d be willing to be interviewed by me about how you find meaning, purpose, and/or fulfillment in life, let me know. I’m currently focused on younger adults (20-40 years of age).
Recommend reading. Is there something you read that changed your attitude or beliefs about The Big Questions? A book? An article? A work of literature? A poem? What was it and how did it alter your beliefs or actions? And yes, I’m happy to hear about self-help books here! I will be reading some at some point. Leave a comment or reply to this email.
Drop me a note. Prefer not to be interviewed live but still have something to say on the subject? No problem. I’m happy to correspond. Tell me about how you wrestle with some of these questions or ask me for a more directive prompt, and I’ll provide one. As a starting point you might consider how the pandemic altered priorities you have about life.
Suggest a friend to participate. Forward this email with a short note to your most existentially angsty or deeply philosophical friend (or really anyone you think would be interested in talking about these questions). Copy me, and I can follow up. (e.g., “hey, this guy I know, Alex, is working on a project talking to people about how they find meaning in life. Thought you might be interested in talking to him.”)
Hopefully the result of all this is something to share about the way people are coming to terms with The Big Questions. Stay tuned.