When we hear the word “content” we tend to think that it means a state of satisfaction; fulfilled, gratified or untroubled. It does mean all those things. It is important to note that being lazy or accepting mediocre can appear to be content. The key difference is that it’s really hard to be content.
Unfortunately, in our culture, we see very little of that. We see what King Solomon described in Ecclesiastes 1:14 as “striving after wind”. We see people spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need in hopes that it will make them content. It won’t. There is only one way to true contentment.
There is nothing wrong with being discontent. We all need to have a bit of discontentment with our shift, our team, our sales trends, our community involvement or our P&L performance. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve yourself. There is nothing wrong with having the desire and taking the steps to make those around you better. There is nothing wrong with setting goals for your business, your shift, your family, your life. If you are not challenging yourself, you could easily slip past content and all the way to mediocre. That’s where we need to be careful.
Keep reaching, keep challenging, keep moving, keep raising the bar, keep pushing, keep prioritizing, keep forgiving, keep visualizing, keep listening, keep teaching, keep kicking, keep tickin’, keep working, keep thinking, keep running, keep smiling, keep learning …..because the reality is that we need to LEARN to be content.
Five ways to learn to be content:
- Take a moment to be grateful for something. What in your life is amazing? Be grateful to live in a free country that holds 42% of the world’s wealth. If you make more than 25k per year, you are personally in the world’s top 5.3% of earners. Be thankful that we have a volunteer military that protects our country and our freedoms. Appreciate the beach, or the mountains, or a park somewhere nearby, or that you are alive, or that your kids are healthy. Find something and give thanks for that.
- Catch yourself thinking, “This sucks.”It’s amazing how often people think this thought. “This sucks!” “My co-worker is the worst — he sucks!” “My wife doesn’t understand me — this suuucks!” It might be in different words, but if you catch yourself thinking something like that, pause. Reverse the thinking. Find a way to be thankful for the situation. “My wife is a caring and sweet person — maybe I should give her a hug.” “My co-worker might be annoying sometimes, but he has a good heart, and maybe I should get to know him better.” “My room might be messy but at least I have a roof over my head.”
- Find the little things that can give you simple joys. What do you need to be happy? I love simple things, like taking a walk in the woods, spending time with a friend, reading my bible, eating some cantaloupe, drinking coffee in the morning with my wife. These cost very little, and require very little, and can make me very happy. Find the simple things that give you similar happiness, and focus on those rather than what you don’t have.
- Self image.We compare ourselves with the images in our head of perfection — movie stars, models in magazines, other people who seem to have it all together — and we can never measure up to those perfect images. But those images are not real. Even the beautiful people have bad hair days and feel flabby, and, if you take away their photoshopped and heavily-made-up façade, you see that they are every bit as human as you are. Even the people who seem successful, living exciting lives — they have the same self-doubts you have. So, if they don’t live up to this ideal image, why should you? And even if they did (which they don’t), why would you need to? When we let go of this image of perfection, we realize that we are already exactly who we should be. And then, all of our need for self-improvement, and all the activity and effort and pain that implies, fades away. We are happy with ourselves, and nothing else is needed.
- Possessions. The overload of possessions in our lives comes from unhappiness — we buy things because we think they’ll give us comfort, coolness, happiness, security, an exciting life. When we become content with ourselves and our lives, we realize none of that is necessary, and we can start getting rid of these extraneous crutches.
This is all just a few scratches on the surface of learning to be content. The truth is, I’m not there yet. But I know this…..when I throw down some turkey and stuffing, a scoop of cranberries, a sweet potato and a slice of pumpkin pie on Thursday…turn on some football and settle in for a nap….I’ll feel, at least for the moment, really content.