Contentment is impossible when you continually hunger for more. Advertising, social media comparisons, and awareness of the Joneses keep you longing for whatever the next purchase promises to provide. Even a bucket list of desired experiences can keep you from fully savoring the current event, since it's only one in a long line.
Contentment only comes when you realize the blessings you already possess, and when you appreciate the opportunities and experiences you've already enjoyed.
Contentment allows you to be fully present for your life, ready to find value in the here and now.
Ambition can push us toward achievement, but unbridled desire eventually makes us unhappy. It's a hunger that is never satisfied. Achievements ultimately don't provide contentment, because the next hill is always there to be conquered.
Wise people from all eras and cultures have warned us about this.
- Chinese sage Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, said "Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you."
- The Greek philosopher Socrates taught that "He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have."
- Jesus of Nazareth said, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
- Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, warns us "For just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there's nothing else. It's here, and you'd better decide to enjoy it or you're going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever."
- Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, has said, "At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you."
10 Ways to Find Contentment
1. Be thankful for health, food, and shelter.
2. Learn to enjoy things without owning them: books in the library, art in the museum, the playground in the park, the scenic highway.
3. Appreciate the change of seasons, sunrise and sunset, the phases of the moon, the heat and the frost.
4. Learn to like fields and trees, long walks, and the beauties of nature that are within your reach (even dandelions in your lawn, or the doves nesting in your eaves).
5. Be thankful for work,and relish the satisfaction of doing a job as well as it can be done.
6. Learn to do for yourself. Make something, grow something, and learn to fix things.
7. Appreciate the people you love who love you too. Learn to like people, even those who are different from you.
8. Celebrate the fact that you have enough by sharing with those who are in need.
9. Learn to savor special treats, and to keep them special by keeping them rare. Enjoy perfect peaches in season, one wear-it-forever piece of jewelry, that long-awaited trip, or those just-right jeans.
10. Keep your wants simple, and refuse to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.
Photo by Frederik Sikkema on Unsplash