Contentment – I’m sure this is something we’ve all wished for at one stage or another in our lives. Yet it can feel like a huge, abstract, elusive concept.
When I think of Contentment, it always reminds me of the poignant Jim Croce song
“If I could Save Time in a Bottle”. Have a listen……………
That feeling of being suspended in time, when everything feels so perfect…………..
How do we explain contentment?
Wikipedia defines Contentment as:
I would define it a little differently:
Let’s look at the word “contents”. For me, I think of “contents” as that which fills up a space. For example, the contents of a box could be items which have been placed in the box to be sent or shipped to a customer, the contents of a glass could be lovely, refreshing, ice-cold water.
So, if we apply the same reasoning to define “Contentment” in our lives, it would be: “that which fills us up.”
Personally, I think that contentment also goes far deeper than just being “happy”. There is a depth to contentment which transcends mere happiness.
When I conducted a poll a while ago, asking what makes people feel content, some of the answers were:
- Sitting on a gentle rocking boat in the warmth of the sun
- Being at peace with myself
- Self – acceptance
- Sitting under a tree in the African bush watching birds busy in the trees and shrubs
- Lying on the couch with my dogs and cats snuggled around me
- Floating in the calm ocean, with the feeling of the warm sun on my skin and the distant cries of seagulls
- Holding hands with my partner
Each of these is 100% true and valid, yet they are very different for each of us.
Think for a moment – what is it that fills you up? What makes you feel complete and ok and satisfied?
I can imagine that these would be very different things for different people.
What is the opposite of Contentment?
Sometimes, in trying to define a concept, it helps to look at what it is NOT.
Perhaps “dissatisfied” would be a good way to describe the opposite of being content?
So often in life, we tend to compare ourselves and our situation to that of others. There is no quicker way to be left feeling discontent!
Each of us has our own life-path, our own values and own purpose. We are unique individuals. What works for someone else may not necessarily work for you – yet we are in a constant state of comparison.
An example of this: you’ve bought your own small home and furnished it comfortably and attractively, to your own style and needs. You are feeling very chuffed. Then you hear that a dear friend has just bought herself a mansion in a very upmarket suburb and has had interior decorators and garden landscapers in to re-do the whole property. When you visit, her home does indeed look like something out of Top Billing! And suddenly, your cosy, homely space feels very inferior and blah to you.
What’s changed? Just yesterday you absolutely loved your home! Well, you’ve just exchanged her values for yours. It’s so easy to be caught up in this constant tornado of comparison. I call it a tornado, because, just like a tornado, it can turn everything upside down in the blink of an eye and wreak havoc with your life.
How do we find Contentment?
An article in Psychology Today says:
“This can be a bit difficult for a lot of people facing the constant stress of work, relationships and family life, and it isn’t always easy to be okay, but there are several ways of going about it.
The first thing someone should do to seek contentment is to take stock of their situation and express gratitude. Being thankful for the things you have can put you in the headspace of knowing that things aren’t nearly as bad as you sometimes make them out to be. It can give you the realization that, although things could be better, they are manageable for the time being.“
2 Crucial Components of Contentment:
- Belief Systems
When I work with my coaching clients, particularly those who are feeling stuck and miserable in their lives, two of the first exercises we do is on their Values and their Belief Systems. It is a critical concept, yet an exercise few people even think of or choose to do on their own. Yet, if you think deeply, our Values and Beliefs are the starting point from which we define our experiences, our interaction with people, our response to various situations and the emotions which we experience, minute by minute.
Your innate beliefs are the filters through which you see and experience the world. Your core values are what dictate what is important to YOU in life, what fills you up.
Too often, people are living their lives according to someone else’s values, often without even realizing they are doing this. There is no way you will find contentment if you are doing this. Take time to explore and discover what is true and meaningful for you and pursue this.
What can I do to find Contentment?
Embracing and working with the 4 concepts below is an excellent way to start bringing or increasing contentment in your life:
- A sense of community and belonging
- Fulfilling relationships
Appreciate what you already have. Be careful of the eternal quest for “more”.
Start a Gratitude jar, or journal daily about the little things you are grateful for in your life.
Goals give us direction, a sense of purpose and a sense of achievement. Without goals, we may drift aimlessly through life.
Set yourself constant goals – little ones, big ones, short, medium and long-term ones.
Deep down, we all like to feel that we are part of something and valued for our contribution.
Is your work fulfilling? Do you need to re-think your career? Where in your community can you add value?
Our successful and fulfilling interaction with others plays a crucial part of feeling content.
This isn’t necessarily only romantic relationships.
Close, trusting friendships, based on caring and sharing, can be just as satisfying and enriching as having a life partner. Volunteering or giving back to others can be extremely fulfilling and enrich our lives hugely.
Remember, contentment is not a destination, it is a conscious part of your daily being and of your life path.