In life we vacillate between being content with our lives and not being content at all. We want and demand more of ourselves, but it that healthy? On the other side of the coin, we have days when we just want to lie in bed and do nothing, is that normal? When should we be content and when should be not settle for anything less than constant improvement? All of these question are real concerns for those of us who want more out of our lives. I would argue that the key to all of these questions lie in whether or not you have “earned” your content.
Yes, “earned content” it’s a good term to start using in your personal vernacular. It is the only way you can learn to be content with your life while constantly working towards improvement. Believe me, this isn’t a skill that comes over night. However, if you truly earn your content then you will start to feel that amazing peace which comes when you stop to enjoy the moment. We all want to love our life now even if it isn’t where we plan on landing yet. And how do you do that? Here are three ways to know if you have earned content.
1. You are working on it
This is a big one for two reasons: 1. you have to be honest with yourself 2. you have to be kind to yourself. I understand that when we want to be content with what we have, who we are, or simply take a break this little voice goes off in our head telling us we can’t or we won’t achieve our dreams. That voice is there for a reason. Its purpose is to make you stop and ask yourself if you honestly have be working on, putting in the hours, trying hard, and seeing improvement. If so, then you should feel such peace knowing you are getting better. Allow yourself this. Don’t wish away today, or make yourself miserable, if all you need is one brief moment to enjoy a cookie, or take a day off.
2. You can’t change it
Though this is an obvious one, this is still hard to accept. When we can’t change something about our lives, our body, people, or the situation then we need to take a step back and try to be content. This is true of things that can’t be changed at all, and things that require more time than is comfortable. I spent a majority of high school hating my hair. It was too short. I wanted long hair more than I wanted a new car or the best clothes. I tried everything—horse shampoo, extensions, no heat—and nothing worked. I just have slow growing hair. Instead of making myself miserable, wishing for my hair to grow magically overnight, I should have done the best with what I did have (which BTW wasn’t that short anyway). My hair was fine, and I could have made it look great at any length.
Learning to be content with circumstances we can’t change can be a monstrous task. I am a firm believer in doing everything you can to better a situation, and looking at all possibilities for change, but if you, like me, have slow growing hair (or too short, too tall, disabilities, natural disasters) then being content is the only way to finding joy in the moment.
3. You tried your best
Confession time: I wanted to be in my high school’s musical almost as much as I wanted long hair. I tried out for it every year. I did a group audition, dance audition, and every year I felt the gut wrenching pain of not having my name on the list. For years I was so angry and embarrassed about that. All of my friends made the class, and even if you don’t make it the first year almost any senior that tried out makes it (apparently not this senior). I would beat myself up about this all the time until I had a realization. I truly had tried my best. At first that made the pain worse because my best was rejected, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that I gave it my all and that was that. Other things in life became more enjoyable for me after I realized that giving it my all was what I needed to feel content. So what I didn’t place in the 5K, I beat my own personal record. So what that my speech wasn’t perfect, I gave it with emotion. When I allowed myself to be human then the peace of earned content made my life (and trying) so rewarding.
So it’s okay to require a lot of yourself, and it’s okay to take a break. We need to be content to be happy, but that doesn’t mean that being content is the enemy of your dreams. You can soar higher than you are now without taking away any of the joy that comes from living with earned content. Life can’t be all push, shove, grind, and toil or we would burn out. Try earning your contentment and with that enjoying more fully the life you are living.