What Is “A Full Life”?

As you know, the tagline for Recovering Shopaholic is “Trade Your Full Closet for a Full Life.”  Thus far, the majority of my posts have focused on the first part, the full closet.  With a closet of over 300 items and an out of control shopping habit, I felt the need to begin by paring things down and getting a handle on my compulsive buying.  While both of those endeavors are still “works in progress,” I now feel the desire and need to give more attention to the “full life” portion of my tagline and mission.

A Full Life

What does it mean to have “a full life”?

In my recent post titled “Boring Wardrobe – or Boring Life,” I admitted that my life isn’t nearly as fulfilling as I would like.  I think this is true for many shopaholics, as our shopping behavior frequently serves to either fill the emptiness we feel inside or as a means of distraction from the painful feelings and situations we don’t want to consider (see “The Reasons We Shop Too Much“).

A Three-Pronged Approach

I wholeheartedly believe that recovery from compulsive shopping must be at least a three-pronged approach.  We need to “stop the bleeding” (in my case, stop the continual “revolving door” of clothes in and out of my closet), figure out what created the wound in the first place, and cultivate more constructive ways of coping so we can have a more well-rounded life.

My goals, rules (which will soon be revisited and revised), and Project 333 have been highly beneficial in terms of “stopping the bleeding.”  I have been successful in paring down my oversize wardrobe (an updated closet inventory will be posted next week), sticking with a more reasonable shopping budget, and addressing my “wardrobe benchwarmers(an update on those soon, too).

Working through the exercises in “To Buy or Not to Buy” should be helpful in enabling me to discover the genesis of my over-shopping behavior.  Although I already have a lot of insights in this area, the comprehensive work involved in that book will allow me to delve deeper and fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Defining “A Full Life”

With a plan of action in place for prongs one and two, it’s now time to look more at prong three, cultivating more constructive coping mechanisms and creating a fuller life.  In order to design this “fuller life,” I first need to define what a full life means to me.

In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on this matter thus far.  Hopefully, what I have to say will resonate with you and be beneficial in your efforts to develop a life that “makes your heart sing.”  As always, I welcome your thoughts on this topic and always learn so much from what you share.

Three Things We Need to Be Happy

In considering what it means to live a full life, I was reminded of a quote I heard recently:

Happiness is pretty simple:  someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.” – Rita Mae Brown

I heard this quote on the “Happiness Hour” on Dennis Prager’s radio show (I don’t agree with all of  his views in general, but I do love his theories on happiness).  I listen to this hour every week and have also read Prager’s book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem,” a number of times.  Both the show and the book have benefitted me immeasurably in terms of my attitudes and behaviors around the vast and complex topic of happiness.  As someone who has struggled with depression on and off since childhood, I’m always on the lookout for tools to assist me in feeling happier in life.

Someone to Love

The quote above really resonated with me and provided some insights into why I haven’t been very happy in recent years.   Although the quote is quite simple, if one examines it in greater depth, there is a lot of wisdom there.  When I consider my life, I see that all three areas are only partially fulfilled.

I am immensely fortunate to have my wonderful husband to love, as well as my two adorable and lovable cats.  However, as I mentioned in this post, my other relationships are mostly distant and/or superficial.  Clearly, I need to cultivate deeper and more meaningful connections.

Something to Do

In terms of “something to do,” my various career pursuits in recent years have risen to mediocrity at best.  My most recent endeavor, wardrobe consulting, has not been as fulfilling or lucrative as I had hoped and I am not sure how to proceed with it at this point (more on that in a future post).

However, there is a silver lining in the “something to do” department. Writing this blog has been incredibly fulfilling and I have been dedicating increasing time and energy to this effort in recent weeks.  I enjoy writing and am excited that my thoughts and words have been able to touch more people than I had originally envisioned upon starting the blog in January.

Something to Look Forward To

When I think about “things to look forward to,” that is on the upswing as well.  I consider how I might be able to improve this blog and expand my reach, and such thoughts are exciting. I would love to be able to help people around the world with compulsive shopping issues using not only my writing skills, but also my psychology and coach training as well (I have a Master’s Degree in psychology and am a certified life coach).   I’m also excited to discover compelling volunteer work and potentially make new connections through that avenue.

I feel more hopeful in both the professional and personal areas of my life than I have in a while.   While I don’t yet have concrete plans for how I will earn more income and cultivate lasting social connections, I feel a sense of “possibility” in both areas and that feels good.

Key Life Values and Happiness

Another powerful consideration when contemplating “a full life” is one’s key values and the extent to which they are being honored.  A while back, I participated in a women’s workshop that included a values visualization exercise.  We were asked to envision and describe a peak experience from our past.  As we recounted the specifics of that experience, a partner wrote down the values she heard in our description.  From the values captured, we were then asked to select our top four or five.  We subsequently created a “values collages” using imagery that represented the values most dear to our hearts.

I described my month-long honeymoon in New Zealand and how much I enjoyed that beautiful country and the adventures my husband and I experienced there.   Most of my key values were evident in that experience, but another important guiding principle for my life was uncovered through further discussion.

My Top Five Values

I determined that my top five values are:

  1. Love (connection and friendship would also be included here)
  2. Spirituality  (to me, this encompasses gratitude, wonder, connectedness, and transcendence)
  3. Freedom
  4. Growth (includes learning and self-awareness)
  5. Contribution

I probably should have added “Health” as a top value as well.  We often take our health for granted, but my recent bodily woes have really shown me just how important health is to happiness and life satisfaction.  If we aren’t feeling well physically, it’s very difficult to express and realize our other key values.

Below is the collage I created during the workshop.  I have it hanging on my bathroom wall and look at it every day while I’m doing my hair and make-up (which isn’t exactly a short activity).  It’s a powerful visual reminder of what’s most important to me and what needs to be honored in my day-to-day life.

Key Values Collage

My Top Five Values: Love, Spirituality, Freedom, Growth, Contribution

Resources for Values Definition

I highly recommend that you do a values definition exercise if you are at all in doubt about what’s most important to you.  Here are some helpful resources to assist you in identifying your key values:

Are You Honoring Your Key Values?

Once you have listed your key values, it’s helpful to consider to what degree they are being honored in your life.  Often when people are unhappy, it’s because one or more of their top values is being ignored.  For example, as a person with a key value of “freedom,” I was very unhappy working a standard 9-5 job with only two weeks of vacation per year.  Although I have struggled in my freelance and entrepreneurial endeavors, I am much happier doing this type of work than working a traditional job.  Conversely, a person with a top value of “security” might be very unhappy doing freelance work for which income is usually quite variable.

When I look at my top values, I feel that I am doing well in honoring freedom and growth (although I would like to cultivate some new hobbies…), but I need to step up my efforts to foster love, spirituality, and contribution in my life.  I need to enhance my connections with others and do more to make a powerful difference in the world and for causes that matter to me.  In doing so, I will likely create what I consider a fuller – and more fulfilling – life for myself.   I’m guessing that once I have a fuller life, what I have in my closet won’t matter as much to me and I won’t feel as compelled to shop.  Fingers crossed!

How Do You Define “A Full Life”?

I’m sure I will explore this topic more in future posts, but hopefully my insights have provided some food for thought for you.  I would love to read your views on what it means to have a full life and what one can do to create a more fulfilling life experience.  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below or connect with me privately.  I always love hearing from you!


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Comments

  1. FrugalFashionista says:

    Hi Debbie
    I was looking forward to your next post and I’m really excited – you are really talking about the same things I’m thinking about right now. And to continue the ‘belonging/acceptance’ theme of your previous post, see how many people you are able to connect with when you talk openly about the imperfect and painful parts of your life… If you were just a pretty face with a nice dress and accessories, I wouldn’t be writing this comment 😉

    I’m sure there is something interesting and fulfilling out there for you careerwise as well – you have a rare ability to touch so many people with your words and insights. Definitely there must be career opportunities in this (write a self-help guide to start with – Dr Benson’s and Dr Baumgartner’s books are great but you have a different approach that also seems to work!).

    Oh, and regarding your lovely-sounding trip to NZ, have you considered setting a goal and celebrating with another trip (it can be less fancy…) in the near future? Perhaps funded with the money you are not spending on clothes?

    I haven’t shopped for several weeks: the urge simply isn’t there any more (I’m also keeping track of my daily necessity spending, trying to make sure that I’m not accidentally compensating by buying other things.) I think I’m learning to understand what I really wanted to say when I clicked ‘buy’ or said ‘yes, please, I will take this’.

    The full life part – that is definitely happening. I had a lovely night out with some new friends a few days ago. With another friend, I’ve started organizing nights out about once or twice a month with some women I’m friendly with but didn’t know particularly well. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but didn’t want to appear clingy or needy – it was much easier when there were the two of us to make the plans an do the inviting: nobody turned the invitation down! If you reach out, you’ll notice that the world is full of lonely people who have just been waiting for your e-mail, phone call. or invitation… Gradually, during this spring, the group has expanded – everyone has brought in someone else – and we are now a group of eight! We also know each other much better now – we are even able to talk about more personal things now. And I’ve made plans to reconnect with several old friends over the next few weeks.

    The other big area of change is that I have realized that I have been starving spiritually and intellectually. There are quite a few things going on in both areas – I’ve been interested in mindfulness and contemplation (as practiced by Christian mystics) for a long time, but now it’s time to start practicing them. I’ve also found some excellent books that have been very inspiring. And I’ve decided to feed my intellectual hunger by learning more about a few areas that I’ve always been interested in but have never had time or opportunity to study. And I’m trying to do ‘small good things’ to people around me too.

    These new interests and activities have filled my life with such rich, stimulating, and authentic experiences of belonging, changing and growing… I feel a bit lightheaded, and there are occasional painful moments and setbacks – I yelled at my children last night. I’m also much more emotional and physically exhausted than I would normally be. But I think I’m allowing myself to feel a lot of emotions I denied before: I did the VIA Character Strengths Survey last night ( I can recommend it, here: https://www.viame.org/survey/ ) and started to cry when I read the results – it seems that it’s such a long time since I’ve had any positive feedback from anyone (including myself) that even getting the computerized feedback felt overwhelming…

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for your continued sharing and support, FrugalFashionista! I love reading about the amazing progress you are making in such a short period of time. I think that when we’re really ready to change and willing to do the work, it doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. Your story is proof of that! I’m glad you are reconnecting with friends, making new friends, and finding new interests. I hope to be able to report the same before too long. I have to get out more, but I will do it!

      I love what you wrote about how you wouldn’t be commenting if I was just a pretty face with a nice dress and accessories. I never really felt I could compete in terms of being beautiful and stylish, but I’m happy that I have a lot to offer in terms of my writing. It means a lot to me to receive compliments like yours about my writing. I definitely want to write a book (or more), but I will continue to blog as well. I didn’t know what to expect when I started this blog, but I’m glad it’s resonated with a lot of people.

      Thanks for the link to the VIA Character Strengths Survey. I love things like that and look forward to taking it! Keep up the amazing work and progress you’re making! Setbacks are normal and happen to everyone, but the main trajectory you’re on seems to be full speed ahead!

  2. Hi, Debbie! That quote seems to sum it up perfectly.
    I am doing well in the someone to love area. I have a wonderful husband, friends near me and also scattered around the country, and my family.
    The something to look forward to I started improving on a year or two ago. When I first started to look at my over shopping I took some of the money I was spending on things and went on vacations and bought tickets to plays, baseball games, etc. This has made a huge difference. It probably is the biggest thing to date that has motivated me to stop my over shopping ways.
    The something to do I need to work on. I have plenty to do. Work, laundry, cleaning, cooking, errands…..but they’re all, well, work. I do read and watch baseball, but shopping has been my number one fun activity. For years I painted and I’d like to go back to that. I’d also like to learn how to make jewelry. I’ve thought about volunteering or taking an exercise class. I know that I need something fun that isn’t shopping that I am enthusiastic about.
    I know that you’ll find what fulfills you. It will be fun trying different things and finding out what that is.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you liked the quote and the post, Tonya! It’s great that you have two of the three areas covered well. I like your idea of using some of the shopping money on experiences instead. Others have suggested putting it toward a “travel fund,” which is a great idea, too. However, it’s also nice to have something more immediate to look forward to. My husband and I went to a baseball game the other day and really enjoyed it! We live about 15 minutes from the ballpark, so we need to go more often!

      The “something to do” can be challenging. Of course, we all have a lot to do in terms of shoulds and have tos, but this part of the quote is really about passions and purpose. That has been a pursuit of mine for many years! I encourage you to keep trying new things, too. I don’t think there is or needs to be just one “thing to do” for us. There can be many and it isn’t just about money, either. I wish you the best of luck with everything! From what you’ve written in recent weeks, it seems you’re doing quite well with your recovery!

      • Hmmm would that be the Padres? If so they are playing my Red Sox for the next three games 🙂
        Thank you for all of your encouragement! I do feel like things are changing. Our countertops were installed this morning. I can tell you that it is so much more gratifying to save for something that we needed than to mindlessly buy a bunch of stuff that I really don’t need.

        • Debbie Roes says:

          Yup, the Padres. But I was born in Boston and lived there for the first six years of my life, so I like the Red Sox, too (was thrilled when they broke the “curse of the Bambino”). Perhaps I’ll need to watch more baseball and shop less! Could be a good plan 🙂

  3. You’ve been holding out on us! I’m sure I remember reading in a previous post that you felt you hadn’t done much with your life. Now you tell us you have a Masters in Psychology and that you are a qualified Life Coach. These are major achievements even if they haven’t led to lucrative employment. Maybe writing is what you were meant to do. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but when you read author bio’s on book jackets an awful lot of them have varied career histories. Alternatively if you can’t make money doing what you love maybe what you need is what writer Barbara Sher calls a “good enough” job. This is a low intensity job that pays the bills and leaves you time and energy to do the things you love. Above all always believe that something will turn up, usually when you least expect it.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Marion! I DO acknowledge my accomplishments, but I think I can be too hard on myself regarding not making a lot of money and changing jobs/careers a lot. I know it’s all part of the journey and I’ve been fortunate to have the freedom to explore different avenues, for which I’m grateful. I have had at least a few “good enough” jobs in the past, although I never heard that term before (but I HAVE heard of Barbara Sher). Regarding writing, I do enjoy it and feel it’s something I do well. For now, I will enjoy writing this blog, but I WILL stay open to other possibilities and opportunities. You’re right about never knowing what’s around the corner. After all, I met my husband when I least expected it!

  4. Deborah says:

    Debbie, as I read your words I see that you feel like you have not done much with your life up until now. But maybe your time is NOW. Maybe through this blog, and the opportunities that spin off from it, you will find your dharma, or “reason for being here”.

    I think you should look at everything you have done up until now to be a preparation for that which you are to do next, and have no regrets about any of your life experiences, because they make you who you are today.

    What kinds of acceptance do we look for? There is the external acceptance of our peers as we navigate through the world and seek to impress others with our accomplishments. There is internal acceptance where we honor who we truly are as a person. In my own personal experience, it has been like a perpetual dance of internal and external acceptance. I have come to find that when I am more satisfied with the internal, I am also more satisfied with the external.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I really like your perspective about the dance of internal and external acceptance, Deby. Very insightful and it resonates with me. I have long struggled to accept myself for who I am instead of always feeling like something is wrong with me. I do often feel like I haven’t done enough with my life and I think I’ve been in a “midlife crisis” for close to ten years now – LOL! I have focused far too much on the career part of the equation and while I still hope to find my “dharma” (great word!), I am trying to appreciate and enjoy the areas of my life that ARE working. I am hopeful that through this blog, other opportunities and avenues will become available to me, but I also just want to enjoy the process. A balancing act, but a valuable one!

  5. Debbie, Bravo! This is a beautifully written post and deeply engaging. Because we have shared a few conversations I already knew of these wonderful aspects of you, and I’m so glad you are sharing this with your readers! We love your writing and it will take you where you want and need to go.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks so much, Terra! I’m glad you liked this post. I’m happy to be addressing the “full life” part of the equation more now and plan to do more posts on this topic soon.

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