What does it mean to be contented, and how do we live contented lives? I believe answering that question and pursuing that life is central to existence.
According to a recent study, less than 14% of Americans are very happy. And while we’ll explore the relationship between happiness and contentment, we’re not living the lives we want to be living. And I think that’s terrible.
How does that statistic make you feel? Are you in the 86% that’s unhappy? Or are you in the 14% who are? Do you want to be happier? Are you living a contented life? Do you know what that means?
My goal is to help you live a contented life. I spend a good amount of time thinking about how to do it, and my work is focused specifically on how money plays into it. For this post, I’m going to explore how to live an overall contented life.
As a financial advisor, I’ve been helping people have better relationships with money for over 20 years. I’m honored to be named to Investopedia’s list of the top 100 financial advisors many years running.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is contentment?
- Happiness versus contentment
- What leads to discontentment?
- How to practice contentment
Let’s get started.
What is contentment?
Being contented means being satisfied with yourself and your circumstances. It’s being grateful and appreciative of your current state. Maybe you’re not exactly where you want to be, but you’re on the path, and you feel your future is going to be better than your past.
Striving is a natural human desire and state. We’re (humans) imperfect and pursuing improvement and development is a key feature of the human experience. Understanding and embracing incremental progress is the cornerstone of contentment.
The enemy of this is complacency. Complacency is “Self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”
When we become complacent, we stop striving. We no longer pursue our potential, or seek new challenges and new learning. Complacency will lead to and perpetuate discontentment.
Happiness versus contentment
Ice cream makes me happy. Being satisfied with who I am, what I do, and where I’m going makes me content.
Contentment is your resting heart rate. Happiness is spikes which are fleeting.
Contentment is your standard operating procedure, your modus operandi. Happiness is a temporary state. Our ultimate goal should be contentment. It’s the pursuit of satisfaction with who you are, what you have, how you think and feel, and how you respond to life’s circumstances.
Happiness comes and goes. Contentment is your consistent state of being.
What leads to discontentment?
Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
We live in a time when the internet and social media are constantly broadcasting others’ greatest hits. It’s easy to look at someone else’s vacation photos and to feel like their lives are way better than ours. But we don’t know what’s really going on. In fact, we have zero idea what anybody else has going on.
For all we know, the people we assume have the best lives in the world could be the most unhappy, discontented people on Earth.
We get ourselves into trouble, and discontentment, when we want more, better, and different things than we have. This leads to discontentment.
We experience dissatisfaction when we’re not happy, and we think our lives suck. When you don’t like who you are, what you have, what you do, and where you’re going, you will not enjoy contentment.
So, how do we live contented lives?
How to practice contentment
Contentment is an inside job. Without being content with yourself, you’ll never live a contented life. Nothing outside of you will give it to you. Money won’t. Fame and status won’t. Possessions won’t.
Those things can accentuate the life of a contented person, but they will not make a discontented person content. Here’s how you do it.
Knowing who you are
You must explore and figure out who you are and what you believe. In service of helping you in this process, you can access our Values course for free.
Knowing what you want and where you’re going
It’s essential to have a clear vision of what you want your future to be. One of our superpowers is our ability to think about our futures, and to make plans for bringing it to life. We do that by setting goals. To help you do that, you can access our Goals course for free as well.
Choosing how you think and feel
How you look at something makes all the difference. Another human superpower is our ability to consciously decide how we think and feel about everything in our lives. It’s truly amazing when we think about the power we have. When we do it unconsciously, we’re prone to think and feel negatively, and that can limit our contentment and potential. When we become conscious of this ability and choose positivity, our lives change for the better. We can reinforce this conscious process through practicing gratitude. This is as simple as thinking of three things in your life you’re grateful for.
The first step to living a contented life is to get clear on your values, beliefs, goals, and perspective. From there, you need to be patient with yourself, and give yourself the grace to improve and incorporate them into your life. When you make thinking about these things a daily practice, you position yourself for success. When you catch negative thoughts and feelings as they come up, and shifting them to positive, you change your life.
You’re in charge. You have choice. It is up to you to decide how you think, feel, and respond to life. Choose positivity. Choose contentment.
Life is way too short, and way too long to not be content. When you choose to live a contented life, everything will feel and be better. You deserve it. You’re worthy of it. You’re capable of it. Start living it.
If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course.
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