Contentment: My 3 Tips
For a long time, I felt as though something was broken in me. Why can’t I just be satisfied?
I want to let that sink in for a minute. There is a pervasive, insatiable, and encouraged dodging of satisfaction in today’s world.
Why am I always wanting something bigger, instead of feeling great where I’m at? Was the question du jour. My ambition and my passions were becoming my distractions from present life, pushing me towards a goal I hadn’t even set. I was spinning my wheels, trying not to “settle”, and it was overall making me unhappy and impatient for the next big thing to just happen already. More, more, more. Faster, faster, faster.
I am a classic dreamer, and it KILLS my husband at times because I can fully be dreaming about five big life changes at once. When I was coming into the workforce post-college, the hustle was glorified – it still is. And I’ll tell you what, it’s hogwash. Chase your dreams, yes. But pulling a hamstring in the process is not what I’m about. I had to learn that the hard way burning myself out at work, then burning myself out of running my own business, all for what?
I started noticing a disconnect when my husband was telling me that I seemed negative about work all the time, no matter the situation. My talk track had become one of always wanting more, instead of being happy with what I had and going from there. I felt that if I wasn’t constantly diminishing where I was, then I wasn’t showcasing the awareness that I should be doing better.
During this phase of discontentedness, I struggled with shifting my mindset. I wanted to be grateful for what I had, but I didn’t want to settle for less than what I ultimately wanted. The good news is this: gratitude and ambition are not mutually exclusive. You can be both. In fact, I think we need both to really be content. It’s that “pursuit” of happiness that keeps many of us at our best, but let us not allow the chase upend us. I liken it to knitting a sweater. There is a larger goal (the sweater), and you work on it while you watch TV, or wait at the doctor’s office, knowing it will happen as your life happens. It will come together, but you must patiently let your hands collide with time and space. You’re not frantically knitting before work, getting your yarn all tangled up and frayed. You’re working on it in the background, until it’s time to finish the job and present it beautifully to its sweater-wearing recipient.
Contentment does not mean complacent. Contentment does not mean settling. It means being happy now. In spite of it all, or because of it all. Contentment means this to me:
I am happy now where I am, and confident that my bigger dreams true are coming too.
Swap out desperation, and introduce contentment in its place. Highlight the glory of where you are, while still working on where you want to be in the background, with joy. I repeat: with joy. Let’s bring some happiness into the equation, shall we?
Here are three practical tips for creating contentment:
1. Reflect on answered prayers.
What is something that you’ve asked for, and received? Take note. Literally, make a list. This can be in the form of a gratitude list, but really try to inventory your life in the past few months/years and think: what dreams have come true? If you need to look through old photos and journals, or call your mom (mine can always remember my accomplishments better than I can), do so.
2. Break big dreams into small steps
If you are working towards something big and feeling frustrated, it’s time to dial things back a notch. Break your big goal into little ones, and work on tiny elements of that project. This is the art of practicing what it feels like to live inside your big dream.
EXAMPLE: For me, this means getting up at 5am and writing. I blog, contribute to other sites, etc. This is not me always working on the big book, but instead it’s me taking small steps and feeling happy in it now.
3. Stop comparing and start getting inspired
This is just a reminder for you, because you already know not to compare. When you see someone with something you want, instead of letting that get you down, let it inspire you. Think to yourself, what is it that I want from this? Is it the feeling it looks like they have? Is it a tangible thing? Then turn the tables on yourself and get inspired to create what you want in your way, or take note of what you already have.
EXAMPLE: I saw an Instagram post of a couple dancing while making dinner and instantly felt like we needed to be doing that. Then I realized that my husband and I connect in the mornings over a walk each day, and THAT is our version of dancing nightly in the kitchen.
Wherever you are in life, consider it good enough to love as is, and go from there. I was recently inspired by a woman I’ve never met, Myquillyn Smith of The Nester, who talks about contentment and your home. She gave me this whole epiphany. She tells you that the house you’re in now is the “next house” back when you were in your last house. Her whole point is to inspire you to give your current home a chance to shine.
Need I say more? Love on this life you have in the foreground, even if there are some big dreams a brewin’ in the background.