“I find it very difficult just to sit. I would love to learn
how to do that with contentment.” Hume Cronyn.
Many say contentment is the key to happiness. I couldn’t disagree more. If contentment makes you happy you are living a life of false happiness. Sooner or later you’ll realize it’s a nothing but a mirage. Better sooner than later so you still have time to do something with your life and find genuine happiness.
Happiness through contentment is similar to being a happy drunk. It feels good but it’s not real. It’s empty, short-lived and a total waste of time.
Happiness feeds on achievements not contentment:
My happiness feeds on my achievements in life and boy it consumes a lot of them. My happiness needs to be fed daily and generously to keep shining. I strive every day to be a better father, husband, entrepreneur, athlete and friend. Every time I reach a new milestone I look ahead to the next one. I’m never content with what I reach or achieve. I always want more – to reach higher, farther – to be better, stronger. While this kind of attitude makes some people miserable, for me it keeps me happy because I always feel like I’m on the move either physically, emotionally, socially or morally. Standing still, facing another day with the same status quo petrifies me.
“I believe that contentment or any sustained period of joy that doesn’t inspire thought that leads to action almost immediately is useless.” Henry Rollins
I worked with one of the best paid S&P100 companies in Dubai and was making a better living than most people my age. My colleagues were content with their highly paid jobs. As for me, I was spending every free moment I had planting and nurturing the seeds of my startup. Once my business became financially viable I left the corporate world and never looked back. It’s been now two years since I have been full time self-employed and I have never been happier with my professional life. I’m doing what I love to do – business deals with entrepreneurs, corporations and successful SMEs around the Globe. I get to meet interesting and highly successful businessmen and businesswomen from all over the World. They are people I can relate to and be inspired by. Had I been content with my fat monthly paycheck, I would still be sitting in a shared office gossiping and writing PowerPoint presentations about a brand I’ll never buy.
All that recent spiritual teaching about happiness being a state of mind and that you can experience happiness without striving for it is just plain wrong. These misleading doctrines are turning our society into lazy, unambitious and unproductive couch potatoes.
“One should either be sad or joyful. Contentment is
a warm sty for eaters and sleepers.” Eugene O’Neill
When you achieve a goal celebrate, mark that accomplishment with a glass of wine but don’t sit down for long. Keep walking towards the next goal. Never stop setting new goals.
There is a fine line between obsession and contentment:
Of course obsession which is the other extreme of contentment will surely lead to sadness. If you are obsessed with money, fame or success you may never find happiness. If you set unrealistic goals in your life, you may never reach them and will always be miserable. But there is a fine line between contentment and obsession and this is where true and lasting happiness lies.
I had an unrealistic childhood dream to become a professional cyclist and to one day race the Tour de France. The reality is I am now 37 years old and I have never won a regional race in my life. I’m a good athlete but far from a world class competitor. Had I been obsessed with my “unrealistic” childhood goal of turning professional I would be a pretty miserable man right now. At the same time, had I been content to not be cut out to race bikes I would have simply quit bike racing and bought myself a touring bike with a child’s seat, convincing myself that I was happy practicing my passion for cycling in the park. The fact is, I’m still racing bikes. My “realistic” goal of none-contentment is that I want to keep racing bikes at my ability level for as long as I am alive. I may be too old, too busy, too tired to compete for podium finishes but I am not going to ride a touring bike with dads in the park on a Sunday afternoon, happy in contentment.
PERSONAL satisfaction is fake happiness
Personal satisfaction is another dangerous way of giving in which keeps us trapped in a fake state of happiness. Personal satisfaction is a way of hiding a failure or a missed goal in life. “I don’t have money but I am happy because I have personal satisfaction”. This is a very common response I receive from my classmate friends who have become unsuccessful doctors every time I challenge them to do something with their lives. I find these answers arrogant, disconnected from reality and totally misinformed. Where is the personal satisfaction in being a doctor without patients? With the proliferation of universities around the world today anyone can become a doctor. The title itself doesn’t reflect any privilege, prestige, superiority or achievement except in the mind of the title holder. A successful shawarma chef who turned his little street kiosk into an international franchise is a far more successful professional than an unknown heart surgeon struggling in a local hospital. Happiness is about achieving tangible and true results in life not personal satisfaction with a diploma on a wall.
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the
thrill of creative effort” Franklin Roosevelt
Happiness is everyone’s ultimate goal in life. We may all have different ways of reaching it. Choosing contentment is the easy but risky way. You may wake up one day wishing you have done more with your life.