The Difference Between Fulfillment vs Happiness: Live Your Best Life

Difference Between Fulfillment vs Happiness: Live Your Best LifeIt’s important you understand the difference between fulfillment vs happiness if you want to live your best life.  In this article I’ll be sharing ways to feel more fulfilled – and why for many reasons fulfillment is more important than happiness. Read on…

If you know my work, then you know I have a Platonic crush on Aristotle, the Greek philosopher.

I write about Aristotle in many of my books, video courses and essays).

Aristotle had interesting beliefs about the difference between happiness versus fulfillment.

According to Aristotle, in order to live your best life, you must live up to your fullest human potential – which leads to true fulfillment.

You Can Become Your Fullest Potential – and Find Fulfillment – by tapping into your 2 human functions:

  • Universal Function
  • Specific Function

I’ll be describing both of these 2 functions in more detail in this short essay.

Plus I will be explaining why it’s essential to tap into 2 out of 2 if you want to feel true fulfillment.

First, let’s start with…

Human Function #1: Universal Function.

According to Aristotle,  every single human has a shared universal function –  a thing which only we humans can do.

In fact no other animal on this planet is capable of doing this one thing.

And no, it’s not opening up peanut butter 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”  of rational thought.

In fact, he purposefully referenced the word “capable” in that phrase: “capable of rational thought.”

Aristotle understood that not everybody is tapping into this special human potential of being rational.

As a result, not everybody is thinking clearly and making their highest level choices.

Unfortunately if you don’t put in the effort of conscious thought – you cannot tap into fulfillment.

“A conscious life” is essential for fulfillment for two reasons:

  1. In order to feel true fulfillment – and become 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. This leads you to making the wisest choices based on acting with your highest core values. As a result, this leads to growing into your best self and achieving true fulfillment. 

What are the dangers of not using your perk of “rational thought'”?

  1. You might experience moments of happiness – but you won’t get to experience the deep fulfillment which comes from choosing your highest level actions.
  2. You will experience far more pain – because this happiness is temporary. Irrational choices bring painful results in the longterm. (i.e. Irrational dating leads to great sex but painful heartbreak. Irrational eating leads to yummy potato chips then leads to heartburn and heart attacks.)

Fulfillment vs Happiness: Live Your Best Life

Now, let’s look at…

Human Function #2: 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.

For example:

  • a physician’s specific function is to heal.
  • a ship builder’s specific function is to build great ships.
  • an ice sculpturist’s specific function is to make big, beautiful ice swans.

When you tap into your Specific Function you tap into fulfillment.


When you’re doing your Specific Function, you’re…

  • pursuing being your highest potential
  • living with meaning and purpose so 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.”

I also know that when I’m writing, I lose track of time.

Plus, doing my Specific Function of writing keeps me feeling balanced and sane.

Even when I’ve gone through what I call a challenging “Vortex Mode,” I’ve been able to stay calm and reasonably content, because I’ve kept myself busy writing.

Happiness vs fulfillmentAristotle would not be surprised to hear this about me and my writing.

Aristotle very much believed that when you’re doing what you are meant to do – the unique thing that you do best -then you’re cashing in on being your fullest potential.

The result?

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.

As a result, you’ll 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 NYU.

Wrzesniewski 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.” 

Fulfillment More Important Than HappinessBut here’s what’s even more interesting.

According to Wrzesniewski, 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 of calling vs job?

The following 2 things…

  1. People who saw themselves as having a calling described their work as requiring their unique skillsets…and thereby they found their gig more fulfilling.
  2. 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! As a result they felt a lot of fulfillment.

Guess what?

Aristotle believed not only matches with what Wrzesniewski reported.

His philosophies also match with the philosophies of Carl Jung (who is one of the key founders of modern psychology).  

Carl Jung believed that we humans need a “life purpose” to be truly fulfilled.

fulfillment versus happinessIn a way, Jung’s “life purpose” matches with what Ari called a “Specific Function” and with what Wrzesniewski  called a “calling.”

Furthermore, Jung believed that when we humans don’t have a positive “high-level spiritual quest” to pursue, we can develop a “low-level spiritual quest” – in the form of a negative addiction.

We over-pursue hedonistic things and wind up with:

  • shopping addictions
  • food addictions
  • sex addictions
  • co-dependent relationships
  • alcohol addictions
  • drug addictions

Basically, Jung thought “low-level spiritual quests” were the back-up plan for not having a “Specific Function.”


  • Over-indulging in lots of hedonistic things like shopping, eating, drinking (etc) might appear at first glance like “true happiness.” But that’s not so!
  • These pleasures don’t add to a person’s self development. As a result, they never make a person feel truly fulfilled.

So how do you find fulfillment vs happiness?

happiness vs fulfillmentJung believed there was a simple way people could cure their negative addictions and find true fulfillment.

Jung believe that you had to do a “high level spiritual quest” (aka: your Specific Function, aka your Calling).  

Personally, I totally agree with Ari, Wrzesniewski and Jung.

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 of the importance of fulfillment over just plain ol’ happiness!

So, go out there and do your Specific Function, your Calling, your High Level Spiritual Question, your Purpose!

Live a life of fulfillment

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