As I sit to write this post, we are currently in the midst of a bathroom remodel (about 95% of the way done!) and let me tell you, I am so excited for the finished results. If you know me, you know I’m a huge, huge fan of self-care, so this spa-like retreat will be a major step in the right direction. It’s kind of crazy, but not having a space I love in which to practice self-care, and unwind in a hot bath after a long day, has been leaving me feeling less than content. So it got me thinking about how to be more content with life, especially with things we can control. Let’s cozy on up, grab some coffee and read on for a list of my favorite ways to add contentment to life.
So what does contentment mean?
To me, contentment (the state of being content), is all about feeling fulfilled. It’s that feeling at the end of the day, or week, where I finally sit down and reflect on everything I’ve accomplished, or that feeling of pride in how I’m choosing to spend my time each day. Some days, that’s as simple as curling up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and enjoying the moment just as it is. Other days, it’s the freedom I feel in writing for the sake of writing, and not worrying about outsiders’ judgment. The dictionary defines contentment as: “a state of happiness and satisfaction”. It’s no wonder that synonyms for contentment are words like gratification, fulfillment, happiness, pleasure, and cheerfulness. Sounds pretty powerful, doesn’t it? They’re all inextricably linked to the idea that what we do, how we spend our time, the choices we make, are a direct correlation to the feeling of contentment, gratification, or satisfaction in our lives.
It’s important to understand the difference between being content and being complacent. While contentment is defined as satisfaction or fulfillment, complacency is defined as “self-satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies”. Breaking that down, complacency is being lulled into a false sense of satisfaction, which is kind of scary when you think about it. It’s far too easy for us to tell ourselves we are satisfied, or happy, even to the point of ignoring that voice inside us that says, “Am I really fulfilled?”. It’s essential for us to recognize the difference between the two states; life is a series of ebbs and flows, and contentment often propels us forward to try the next challenge, overcome the next hurdle, achieve the next milestone. It can help us build resilience and give us a greater sense of self and what we are capable of. Complacency, on the other hand, leaves us unfulfilled, often convincing us that things are “as good as it gets” and that we can’t improve upon our current state, even if we try. So my question for you is:
Are you content with your life?
If you’re shaking your head no, or you’re not even sure how to tell if you have contentment in your life, don’t worry. Having done this exact soul-searching myself when I left the corporate world, I’ve compiled some materials that helped to determine if I was truly living with purpose. The following are valuable questions I ask myself regularly:
Do I say “yes” at the beginning and end of each day?
What I mean by this is do I wake up every day feeling energized, excited, or challenged in a positive way? Am I looking forward to what’s in store for me? Do I go to bed every night feeling like I’ve made progress in some capacity, whether it’s venturing outside my comfort zone professionally, or carving out time for personal relationships? If the answer is no, and continues to be no more often than yes, it’s time to re-evaluate. I knew it was time to leave my corporate job when I woke up feeling anxious or reluctant about going to work more often than not.
Will I have regret?
“I wish” is one of the most dangerous phrases, because it implicitly relies on external factors to make things happen in our lives. “I wish I could open up to people more”, “I wish I had the courage to say ‘no’ to colleagues who ask me to take on tasks”, and on and on. Being content does not mean accepting the status quo; in fact, reaching your full potential (either professionally or personally) means taking risks. Regret Minimization is a theory that puts forth this idea: imagine yourself at 80 years old. Will you be living with regrets, saying “I wish” instead of “I did”? Even if changes result in failure, it’s important that you’re failing forward. Contentment doesn’t simply involve happiness, it involves personal growth and mindfulness tied to new experiences.
Do I engage in positive self-talk?
It’s super easy for us to convince ourselves that we will never change the way we interact with others, that our dream job is out of reach, that we can’t put our health and well-being first. It’s a natural tendency and protection mechanism we employ to avoid failure and disappointment. But it also keeps us in neutral. Negative self-talk (read: complacency) robs us of a sense of urgency in making those changes toward contentedness.
How To Be More Content With Life
Now that you have ways of assessing whether you’re truly content in your life, here are some helpful tips on learning to be content:
Make Time For Your Passions
First and foremost, if you’re waking up with anxiety, or even downright dread about what your day entails, it’s time to evaluate where and how you spend your time. Can you, in this very moment, name one of your passions you are able to engage in on a daily basis? If not, please make a list immediately. Write down 3-5 things you love to do. Is it reading? Exercising? Sketching? Writing poetry? Find a pocket of time to devote to this passion on a daily basis. You owe it to yourself, and life’s a little sweeter when you have something to look forward to.
Know and Live Your Values
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and again!): we must stop comparing ourselves to others. Envy is toxic, and we all know that social media filters real life. If these texts, posts, photos, and comments don’t make you feel better, don’t let them in. Being content means truly that, with no “if”s attached. Know your own values, and live them out daily. It might take some rearranging, some uncomfortable moments, and some challenges, but it’s worth knowing that you’re striving to live in accordance with the person you want to be. Check out my favorite post on goal-setting, which can help jumpstart your reflection on values and how to live them daily.
Cultivate Powerful Relationships
We are the company we keep. Cut ties with toxic relationships that drain you emotionally or encourage negative self-talk. Cultivate relationships that empower you, challenge you, and inspire you. I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve developed as an adult; these are people who never allow me to become complacent, and encourage me to evolve both personally and professionally. Knowing I’ve found such a solid group of people who have my best interest at heart is one of the main reasons I feel so content in my life.
Feeling fulfilled in life should be a work in progress. Don’t forget that you can feel content and also embrace change at the same time. Foster the values that allow you to take this journey, and know that you are entirely capable of living a more content life. You deserve it. x