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Am I already at the peak of fulfillment? – Candice

My fiancé has a pet bird. This was almost a deal breaker on our second date because I thought keeping a bird locked in a cage was the height of animal cruelty. But I quickly learnt that Gabe sees his cage as his home. We always leave the door open, but he prefers to ‘stay in’ and play with his most beloved toy: a bell.

Knowing his love for bells, one weekend as I was preparing to leave (birds are great pets because they’re pretty self sufficient) I had the brilliant idea of putting both of his beloved bells in his cage at the same time. The idea being: twice the things – twice the fun. But quickly I realised this wouldn’t be the case. This is because Gabe can only play with one bell at a time and so the second bell would not bring him any greater happiness. Actually, the second bell, while perhaps a diversion from the first, would most likely just be in his way, taking up precious space in his cage. It was a revelation: twice the things not necessarily meaning twice the fun.

The reason it felt like an epiphany was because I’ve been reading about this concept in the finance book; Your Money or Your Life where they called it the ‘fulfilment curve’. They demonstrate this theory with a simple graph; an upside down U showing pleasure increasing with the attainment of goods and services (at a cost) and then the curve petering out after more and more money is spent on said goods and services. I had understood the concept, but I guess I wasn’t a believer. I couldn’t help thinking that another thing or experience would be great; an overseas trip, a new trinket for my house, another pair of shoes. I felt my fulfilment curve would be a never ending arrow to the sky if I could spend, spend, spend.

So seeing that Gabe had reached that elusive point of maximum fulfilment, the coveted ‘enough point’ in his life, I had to wonder why? How? And I found that the answer was to do with his lifestyle – i.e he lives in a cage. In his cage, no bell is boring, one bell is fun and two bells doesn’t leave much space to live. Could the same simple formula apply to my lifestyle? Doing the 100 Thing Challenge, where I reduced my clutter by limiting myself to 100 personal possessions, I discovered a small taste of what ‘enough fulfilment’ means. I discovered I had all these great hobbies collected over decades: painting, dancing, swimming, travelling, gardening, to name a few. But one of my lifestyle constraints: time, limited my enjoyment of all of these. Looking at my level of fulfilment I realised it was better to put my resources into pursuing only 1 or 2.

So while I originally thought that I’d never be the kind of person to find the peak of my fulfilment curve, my budgie showed me that all I need to do is look at fulfilment in context with my life. For me there is no point dreaming about travelling for a year as I continue to build my house ‘to settle down’. No point continuing my painting when I don’t really enjoy it. I think there is huge benefit to be gained from understanding and accepting the limitations in our lives, seeing the cage that we have and then making the most out of it. So while there is a big wide world out there with lots to buy and do, in my everyday lifestyle I’m really very happy with what I have. Perhaps I had reached my point of ‘enough’, of ultimate fulfilment, without noticing. Perhaps I have my bell, and now I also don’t need two.

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