Attaining Contentment and Learning How to Cultivate It Throughout the Year
Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” ― Lao Tzu
What is contentment?
For me, it’s really about being happy with who you are. Which I wasn’t for many years, and I think most people are not.
In my life, I’ve learned to be better at the skill of contentment (not that I’m perfect, but I’ve learned). I am happy with my life. I am happy with myself. I’m happy wherever I am. That is not to say that I don’t strive to become better, to set goals for myself and to strive with everything I have to achieve them. Sometimes I succeed and reach my aspirations, and sometimes I fail. But regardless of my success or lack thereof, I am still satisfied with my life. I have finally learned that who I am is not predicated solely on my accomplishments. Rather, my identity is now defined by gratitude—gratitude for the opportunities I have been blessed with and the fortunes, both good and bad, that befall me. Learning to achieve contentment didn’t happen for me overnight. But, with some practice and trail and error, I came up with some ways we can cultivate satisfaction throughout our lives.
Here are some tips I follow daily:
1) Become grateful. As I mentioned, it is impossible to develop contentment without gratitude – they are inseparable. And a grateful person is one who has learned to focus on the good things in their life, not the things that they lack. When you begin to question what you have to be grateful for, just start making a list – a literal list of all the good things in your life. Don’t worry about finishing, you don’t need to. The simple discipline of beginning the exercise will undoubtedly shift your focus back to the many good things you already have.
2) Take control of your attitude. A person who lacks contentment in their life will often engage in “when and then thinking” – “when I get _______, then I will be happy.” Instead take control of your own life. Your happiness is based solely on your decision to be happy – and this may be one of the most important life lessons you can ever learn.
3) Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparing your life with someone else’s will always lead to discontentment. There will always be people who “appear” to be better off than you and seemingly living the perfect life. But be advised, we always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions that we make about others. Their life is never as perfect as your mind makes it out to be. You are unique. You are special. And it’s always better that way.
4) Help others. When you begin helping others, sharing your talents, time and money, you will find yourself learning to be content. The practice will give you a finer appreciation for what you own, who you are, and what you have to offer.
5) Be content with what you have, never with what you are. Never stop learning, growing, or discovering. Take pride in your personhood and the progress that you have made, but never become so content that you cannot find room for improvement. Contentment is not the same as complacency. As soon as you stop growing, you start dying.
Written Lori Jackson