For years, I lived in the future. Always looking ahead to what was in store for me just around the corner. That shiny new do-dad or relationship would finally push me into contentment.
“If I can just get a promotion, maybe I can start paying down my debt…”
“Man, if [girl’s name] says ‘yes’ to a date, I’ll be set…”
“My life would be so much better if I moved out of this dumpy apartment and got a nicer one…”
The thing is, I never felt better.
The situation wasn’t the problem. I was the problem.
A lesson that I learned (and am still learning) is that nothing can MAKE me content. No amount of money, no job, no other person (even someone as close to me as my wife). I finally realized it came down to taking the time to understand who I am on the inside, versus looking for some external validation.
HAPPINESS vs. CONTENTMENT
Happiness is the fleeting enjoyment that comes from a new Xbox, or a new house. Money, prestige and notoriety can bring you happiness, all the naysayers aside. What all these things provide is choices, and having choices makes us happy.
As humans, we pursue novelty in life, and all the “stuff” we accumulate provides it. Get tired of doing one thing, start doing another. Having options allows us to switch at will.
Contentment, on the other hand, does not come from having choices. Contentment comes from WHAT YOU DO with those choices.
If you choose to accumulate more and more options because you’re bored with what you have, you’ll continue to live a life of tedium punctuated with brief moments of lightheartedness.
If, however, you spend the time and effort to discern who you are, then you’ll be able to make the choices in your life that align with that. That’s why I’ve said in the past that every decision you make in life needs to come from your values. Your values are who you are, and if you try to act contrary to them, you won’t find contentment.
So, how do we know which choices are going to bring us contentment, and which will bring us only fleeting happiness?
You first need to know what your values are. Only you can determine that. If you need some help on that, check out my Life Design series. Your values come from deep inside of you, and a lot of us may not have ever taken the time to understand what they are.
Once you know your values, determine never, never, NEVER to violate those values for anything. If you’re faced with a choice, always choose the path that advances your values. Honestly, this might cost you some money, friends, or opportunities. But, you’ll never be far from contentment when the face you show the world is who you truly are.
Are you content, or are you chasing happiness? If you’ve struggled with this issue before, what was your key to overcoming it? How did you find contentment? Let us know in the comments…
Photo courtesy: me’nthedogs