“Finding an ease with what you are thinking, feeling, the world as it is, not necessarily accepting it, but not resisting it. This is contentment.” —Andy Puddicombe
The truth about contentment is that it is different than being happy. We cannot know what it feels like to be happy if we have not known sadness, so therefore we cannot feel both simultaneously. The argument may be made that, feeling sad and happy at the same time is possible; that is the definition of a moment being bittersweet. But if you examine such an argument closely, that is why we give it another name – bittersweet – rather than happy or sad. But one feeling we can simultaneously feel whether we are experiencing a moment of happiness, sadness or even momentary bitter sweetness is contentment.
Contentment resides within each of us. It is not something that comes to us from an external source – someone loving us, success in our hobbies or careers, celebrating an awesome moment in the world around us. Sadness arrives conversely, when we have to say goodbye to someone who has brought much happiness into our lives, when we stumble or hit a road block in our careers or something tragic happens in the world.
But through each of these instances, both happiness and sadness, we can be content. Indeed, it is true. We can be content during happy times (which may seem easy to do) and during sad times (which may seem impossible and contrary), but it is true in both instances to be content.
Contentment is a state of understanding yourself. It is an awareness of your strengths, your capabilities, your understanding of how to navigate well in the world no matter what the circumstances. In other words, contentment is a skill that can be strengthened because you hold the keys, the muscles, to either strengthen or let atrophy.
At this point, you may be asking, how do I cultivate and build the strength of contentment. The good news is, it is has been a central topic of TSLL for years, and in fact is thoroughly examined in my new book Living The Simply Luxurious Life: Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Becoming Your Best Self. In the meantime, you can read and listen to posts and episodes from the archives that go into great detail about how contentment can be attained.
Most wonderfully, when contentment is achieved, our happy moments become grander and our sad moments more bearable. As well, upon understanding and welcoming true contentment into our lives we let go of false means of contentment that are really energy or resource zappers and teasers such as the desire for more and the feeling of lack (which is disquised as “want”).
True contentment finds us in the now, not gazing at the future.
True contentment is a state of mindfulness. Meditation can play a helpful role in training the muscle that is our mind to be present, to not be overrun by our thoughts, and help us to engage fully in the moment without asking for more and simply savoring the now.
Truthfully, contentment is possible wherever and with whomever we find ourselves, but initially it is not easy to build in particular moments until we grasp its gifts. Below are two instances when reaching a state of contentment can be difficult initially:
- When we are by ourselves if we have never truly done so, and have depended upon others to create the excitement and pleasure of life.
- When we are with others who are always looking for more or not appreciative of simply the moment, unable to see whatever goodness is available. (And there is always something good in every moment. Simply being alive to maneuver through a bad moment to the other side is something to celebrate.)
Contentment begins the moment we wake up, when we realize the little beautiful gifts around us – whether it is the peace and quiet of a safe home, our loved ones sleeping calmly or having our home to ourselves, seeing the soft snow fall to the ground, blanketing the yard and neighbood with a paintbrush of beauty, seeing the first light climb above the horizon, hearing the birds begin their business of hellos. But still, the events outside of us, each of the moments listed above, are not what bring us contentment.
What brings us contentment is being able to find, recognize and appreciate them. Because in that same moment, we can easily be noticing that we have woke up too early and wish desperately we could fall back asleep, observe the house that we wish we had cleaned up a bit more, bemoan the fact that our home is full of inhabitants and there is too much to do for others and not enough time to do for ourselves or bemoan the fact that we are waking up alone, or remembering that it is a day of the week that is full of tasks we are not thrilled to tend to, or wishing it wasn’t snowing because we will have to drive in it, or lamenting that the sun up because we want a bit more sleep.
You see, it is all about our engagement with the world. Contentment comes from our choice of choosing to recognize the power we have each day to engage in such a way that will open the doors of opportunity to a positive energy.
Contentment doesn’t guarantee seemingly much, but upon closer examination, it guarantees a much more fulfilling life that can be savored every single day of our lives. It makes sure that so long as we are in the situation, we will find the goodness, we will find the opportunity, we will make the day better simply by the attitude we bring to it. That energy has a direct effect on our overall well-being, and if we are sharing the moment with others, it will have a positive effect on them as well whether they understand it initially or not.
Now, let’s go back to those two above mentioned moments that initially are difficult in which to find contement: being by ourselves and being with others who haven’t yet welcomed contentment into their lives.
First scenario: Once you know who you are, you begin to savor days and moments to yourself because being alone doesn’t mean you fear what you will find in your own company. In fact, you revel in it.
Scenario #2: Spending time with people becomes a joy because you begin to realize the power of the type of people you surround yourself with. You are thoughtful about with whom you spend your time, communicate clear boundaries and when you do not have a choice over who you spend your time with, you steady yourself to limit the interactions. Listen to episode #92 in which I share The Elements of a Strong Social Well-Being and how to do each of these things when it comes to spending time with others.
The gift of contentment is priceless, and it is also free. You do not have to buy one more thing (in fact, you may want to let go of some things). You simply need to understand how to focus on understanding how to cultivate contentment and let go of the pursuit of happiness as it is more likely to find you when you are truly content.
~Concept and Project Planners (many more colors), they sell the signature paperclips as well.