I recently wrote a column about happiness, which generated many positive and encouraging responses. Believe me, that made me happy! Now I want to take it a step further and discuss fulfillment, a similar yet quite distinct feeling.

Happiness can change from one season to the next, or even one minute to another. Fulfillment is satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one's abilities or character. This is a huge difference.

My good friend Nido Qubein, president of High Point University in North Carolina, said: "Fulfillment comes from a life well lived — one devoted to making the world a better place. When you focus on improving the world, you become a better person, one filled with a great sense of gratification."

This advice should tell you to get going — and do it now — so you can live a fulfilled life.

Fulfillment is a process, something achieved through failures and victories, rather than from one specific moment. A fulfilling life comes from building habits that lead to joy.

It starts with knowing what you want. Most of us go through life racing from one thing to another. We don't stop to think about what is really important to us. Being fulfilled is not being content.

To achieve true fulfillment, begin with a self-assessment. Do you love your job? Is your family life thriving? Do you have a healthy group of friends? Are you getting proper exercise and nutrition?

People take different roads seeking fulfillment. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost.

Once you answer these questions honestly, it's time to take action and chart your strategy. And keep in mind that your answers can and should change over time.

Don't stop what you are doing and make drastic changes immediately, but instead think about what changes you can make to lead a more fulfilling life. Here are some things to consider:

Spice up your life. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Sometimes you must go outside your comfort zone to find out what you like and really want out of life. Take that vacation you've always dreamed about. Start a hobby. Learn a new skill. Be a lifelong learner.

Don't take yourself so seriously. Smile and laugh more. Starting your day with a good laugh, or at least a big smile, is as beneficial to your health as it is to your mood. It relaxes tensions, changes attitude and increases the body's natural painkillers.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Don't beat yourself up and make life so difficult. Minimize your stress level. Take normal breaks and relax more. If you've been thinking about exercising more, what is stopping you?

Make gratitude a continuous attitude. It's so easy to say thank you, and it can have such a powerful impact. Gratitude has many rewards.

Search for ways to help others. Volunteer for an organization, offer to help a co-worker, pick up trash on your daily walk, mentor a newcomer. That's a short list, but opportunities are everywhere.

One of my favorite aphorisms goes like this:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

This gives you a choice, a positive or negative path. Clearly, the positive path will lead to a more rewarding, more contented life.

Mackay's Moral: Doing what you like is freedom; liking what you do is fulfillment.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or email harvey@mackay.com.