A few weeks ago, Kain Ramsay – a coach and trainer that I follow online – asked this question:
What do you think might happen if everyone in the world stopped defining themselves by their vocational roles, how they feel, what they believe or their personal preferences?
Also, if pursuing happiness was no longer an option, what might many people devote their lives to instead (and how might this be even better than happiness)?
Let’s get this week off to a reflective start…
And, that very same day – while I was doing my morning meditation, this verse popped into my mind:
Philippians 4: 11-12
… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want…
A big enough impact that I noted them down together! And I’ve been thinking and considering them ever since.
Why do I mix up the pursuit of happiness with living a meaningful life? It’s not that happiness cannot be a by-product of a meaningful life – but a life well lived will have its ups and downs.
Is contentment possible through all of those moments?
For starters, contentment is internal – not external. It is that feeling of pleased & satisfied – not needing more (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary). Of course, it’s not as dramatic as “happiness” – but rather much closer to inner peace. And yet, it’s not synonymous either with “complacent”.
So, why does the human race insist on searching externally for happiness?
“Until you make peace with who you are,
you will never be content with what you have.”
— Doris Mortman —
So many times, we wear a mask – the persona we want others to see. This merely plagues us with complications! We spend so much energy keeping up the facade – pretending! And in trying to keep up this image, we fail to live spontaneously & freely!
Can we connect with our heart and truly appreciate who we are – what we have – today? And show the world that we are content with who we are – really, truly & deeply – rather than simply putting up a facade to others that depends on how well we are doing in their eyes? Could I be content with the world seeing me as I truly am?
As I look externally, I am constantly battered by the circumstances of my life – are they good or bad? Who defines what is good or bad?
If I search externally – I might mistakenly look to possessions – “things” – do they bring me happiness? But what if I lose something? What if it breaks? Can I declutter and down-size if I am attached to these things?
If my happiness depends on my circumstances – can I be happy when the weather changes? Does it need to be sunny or raining in order for me to be happy?
The question is not whether there is life after the death
the question is… is there life before death?
The practice of gratitude teaches me to find contentment & appreciation whatever situation I am in. To find the silver lining – knowing that in every storm, there is a silver lining – when I choose to look for it. It’s all about learning to dance & play in the rain like a child – rather than bemoaning the fact that there is no sunshine.
Contentment is, then, a choice. One which I must make daily. It’s a choice to focus on “peace of mind” – to stop resisting “what is” in the circumstances. To stop comparing it to “what should be”. And instead to focus on gratitude – seeing the beauty in the day. Stopping to smell the roses.
It is recognising that in this moment – here & now – I have enough.
I am enough.
It is making peace with who I am today – recognising that I still have growth and learning. But… for today – it’s enough. Yes – I absolutely want more, while STILL being grateful for what I have today.
We put an end to strife – while making a commitment to keep on striving.
I can accept and love myself today – as I strive for tomorrow and my personal growth. Because I know that I am loved.
Gratitude for today means that I am okay with how things stand – I take stock and give thanks for this day’s blessings. I nurture the cherished relationships that I have here and now – giving those in my social network my time & energy because that is part of my purpose on earth.
When I am present – when I actively choose to focus on the beauty, joy, love & creativity of this moment – even the pain or sorrow of this moment – I can choose to be content!
I may lean into feelings & emotions – even the unpleasant negative ones – because I recognise that in the present moment, when I stop resisting – then I can become the best version of myself. It’s when I stop trying to run away – stop trying to “avoid” a certain way of being – that I can look squarely into the face of the present moment and say “this is enough” and be grateful for the stepping stone on the way to fulfilling my purpose.
I recognise that throughout my life, blame & shame of the past regularly rear up their ugly heads. Am I willing to release judgments that I have of myself? While I might make mistakes on the road to fulfilling my purpose, there is no way that I can move into a better version of my ideal self while I am self-critical and shaming.
I cannot change the past – so there is no value in remaining emotionally attached to it. Striving for “perfection” – requiring of myself that “perfect” performance – only leads me to discontent.
Worse yet, it paralyses me, and makes me unwilling to take any risks of failure. Failure – however – is better than a life of regret for never having tried. Can I accept that on the way to living my purpose, there may be mistakes and moments of which I feel that I let myself down?
Will there be doubts? Of course!
Doubt, however, is that small voice that says “I care about the outcome” – but it doesn’t have to become anxiety or fear. Doubt is not all bad! When I lean into the doubt – and recognise that I am invested in the outcome – I can find contentment in knowing that I am living a life worth living!
I may be taking a risk – but I am moving forward. The fear of failure – the doubts – tell me that this is a worthwhile enterprise. And so, I am content to feel this way! Because it reminds me that I am alive and this is worthwhile!
It’s not that I will become complacent and stop striving – because no spiritual journey is about simply accepting that this is the best I can have!
The only person that I am competing against is who I was yesterday!
Am I doing a better job today than I was yesterday in fulfilling my life’s purpose?
Have I discovered what truly enhances my life – where I want to invest my energy & effort? Where do I completely lose track of myself? Of time? Forget to eat? Am I doing that? Does my life reflect my values?
Am I prioritising what I hold to be important? Because I know, from experience, that passion brings contentment. When I am focused and working on the right things – for me – then I am truly happy. Those are not necessarily other people’s priorities. Those may not be what others think I should be investing my time in – but are they MY priorities?
“A contented heart is a calm sea in the midst of all storms.” Anonymous
While it sounds cliche – life is a journey, not a destination.
I will be striving, constantly, to grow and learn. But I cannot live my entire life waiting “until” or “if” or “when”” – in order to be happy. Content needs to happen now – with exactly where I am on the journey.
It is not living a life with the constant longing for a different time & place – a different situation – a “till then” mindset. And so, I choose to be content with this moment – this leg of the journey – this spot that I am currently in, rather than putting off my happiness “until I get there”.
And what about you?
Are you willing to set aside your pursuit of “when” and “if” – and accept contentment in the present moment?
Are you prepared to focus on your purpose and passions – to live the best life you could – to fight the good fight – and simply learn to be content and grateful for where you are today?