I feel like a big mistake that people in their 20’s make — and I’m certainly no exception — is confusing apathy for happiness/fulfillment. You see it everywhere, and it makes sense, because on the outside, apathy and inner spiritual fulfillment can look a lot alike. It’s this strange idea that “if I am comfortable and full just in my own skin, then I don’t need anything extra, and I don’t need to do anything extra, to be happy.”
And I think at a certain level, it’s sort of true. To be fulfilled, you *should* be able to be happy just on your own.
But once you’re are at a point in your inner spiritual fulfillment where you’re totally happy just on your own, and you don’t need to achieve external outcomes to be happy — it doesn’t mean you get rid of external outcomes completely, it certainly doesn’t mean external outcomes disappear. It just means that instead of *needing* external outcomes out of *desperation*, you *choose* to take action out of *inspiration*, and as a consequence of that inspired-action-taking, you happen to more-often-than-not receive positive outcomes.
In other words, you don’t “need” to take external action to be happy. You’re already fulfilled without anything extra (or any outcome); instead, you’re taking inspired action, and the inspired action becomes the payoff itself.
As an example (to concertize the concept), you’re not eating healthy and exercising in order to look better, and only when you look better will you be happy, no; instead, you’re already enough, you love yourself, you’d be totally fulfilled not taking any action to improve your health, yet despite this *because* you are already fulfilled, you are *inspired* to eat healthy and exercise, and the very act of eating healthy and exercise is the payoff itself. Also as a happenstance consequence of your healthy eating and exercising, you might start to look more conventionally attractive: but that’s not where deep, true happiness comes from… the payoff is in the actual healthy eating and exercising itself, for they were actions you took out of inspiration.
Real happiness/fulfillment is not apathy. Real happiness/fulfillment is a fierce and totally ruthless engagement with life that leaves you totally bare and vulnerable and more open to being hurt; that’s precisely where the happiness/fulfillment comes from.
And as I keep repeating, it’s a choice. You can live your life “happy in your own skin” and not really accomplish much in terms of your goals and your values and then just eventually die. Tons of people do that, and it’s a totally viable option. Or you can take action, suffer through failure, suffer through success, and neither really matter — it’s the action-taking itself that achieves a fulfilled life. Engagement with life itself is the payoff.