Contentment is defined as “a state of happiness and satisfaction,” but I think that it’s more than an emotional state of being. In fact, I believe that contentment is a choice we make (or don’t make) daily. How can we live in a way that supports a choice to be contented with our lives?
What’s the Difference Between Contentment & Complacency?
As mentioned above, contentment is defined as “a state of happiness and satisfaction”. Complacency is defined as “self-satisfaction, especially when accompanied by unawareness by deficiencies”. They certainly aren’t the same thing, and having one doesn’t mean we have to live with the other.
When we consider living out the choice to be content, we have to (at the same time) actively avoid becoming complacent.
Complacency, or a smug type of self-satisfaction, can be a natural byproduct of a focus on contentment. We must take into consideration our motivations and priorities. It’s important, especially for those of us who struggle with wanting to impress/outperform others, to examine the reasoning behind the ways we interact with others.
The difference between choosing contentment (actively showing appreciation for the good in our lives) and complacency (becoming closed off to growth because of a prideful belief that we have everything figured out) is humility.
Arrogance Steals Joy & Limits Our Potential
When we live on the belief that we have all the bases covered – that we don’t need anyone’s help or perspective – we can easily lose sight of what really matters.
Contentment shouldn’t mean that we ignore what is imperfect, or that we feign a smile so others don’t know we’re struggling. It comes down to accepting that we’re all working through challenges, and that we have the choice of where to fix our attention.
The good in your life might be different than the good in mine, in the same way that we have our own favorite foods and songs, but there are things that are inherently good for all of us.
8 Fundamentally “Good” Places to Direct Effort and Energy:
- Showing love and appreciation for others
- Communicating with openness and honesty
- Being willing to listen and learn from others
- Practicing patience (especially with challenging people/situations)
- Taking care of the things you own
- Making healthy choices for your physical well-being
- Improving your self-talk (this one’s for you, people pleasers!)
- Spending time evaluating what’s important to you and why
When we put energy towards creating opportunities for good things to exist and grow, we are able to take a step back. We can see how our attitude and actions impact the world around us.
If we instead hide our struggles and put on a mask of pride and apathy, our arrogance can close doors. It can keep us from from experiencing the joy that comes from growing as a person. Admitting that we don’t have everything figured out may be uncomfortable in the moment, but there’s a very specific kind of peace and contentment that comes from letting go.
What if Contentment Feels Impossible?
There are definitely times in life when it’s easier to practice contentment. There are also certainly times where it feels downright impossible. Sometimes happiness feels like a far away goal.
Making baby steps in the right direction, however small, can build momentum. Once things get easier, we’ll find our baby steps have made it easier to bounce back. Those baby steps also help to keep us from becoming bitter and falling into the pit of complacency.
Spending time sorting out goals and priorities before life gets tough can save us from losing our momentum when things fall apart. Bigger, overarching life goals serve as a compass when we’re feeling overwhelmed, helping us to make guided decisions.
My Go-To Acts of Defiance Against Complacency
Whenever I start to feel myself sinking into a complacent state of mind, I try to shrink myself a bit. I focus on doing something for the benefit of someone else. Usually it’s my husband, mostly because he’s always around, but other times it’s a coworker, friend, or family member.
Whenever my pride and arrogance is behind the wheel, I find myself much more likely to snap at people, make negative assumptions, and focus on the “faults” I see in others.
These are my go-to ways to add a little humility into my day:
- Make a meal for someone: whether this means making something for my husband, or inviting someone over for a meal, I find preparing and then cleaning up after a meal made for someone else (with the right mindset) is great practice at putting others first.
- Earnestly apologize for a bad attitude: if I’ve snapped at someone, or noticed that my lack of enthusiasm has left someone feeling unappreciated or discouraged, I’ll gather myself up, walk over, and apologize. My goal is to admit that I was at fault without following up with a host of excuses. Admitting that I was wrong is hard and letting it sit there without justifying it is even harder.
- Clean the bathroom: I really hate cleaning the bathroom (especially the shower). I usually grumble my way through it, wallowing in anger and pity. If my pride needs a little kick in the pants, I’ll force myself to clean the bathroom. I’ll say things to myself like “it’s wonderful that I have someone to clean up after,” and “we are so fortunate to have clean, running water and the luxury of a daily hot shower.” Sounds like overkill, but I really hate cleaning the bathroom.
Using Life Goals to Support Intentional Contentment
One of my broadest life goals is to be a source of positivity in my relationships with friends and family. Choosing contentment, and more importantly avoiding complacency, is something I have to really work on.
We should have important goals outlined to reference whenever we need them. When life gets overwhelming, having a direction to head in (even with just baby steps) is way better than trying to figure it out in the moment.
Contentment isn’t pretending nothing bad will happen, it’s being prepared for challenges without allowing them to turn us into grumpy jerks. Let’s make an effort to cut down our pride a bit. If we open up space in our lives to learn from each other, we can grow as people, and love our lives more.