Being content is living in peaceful happiness and satisfaction for where you are in life. Being satisfied in the present. Sounds simple right?
Yet, I struggle with this. Does anyone else out there struggle with being content? As someone that strongly believes in self-improvement and goal setting, I often find myself forgetting to enjoy the journey to success, and instead have my eyes fixated on the “prize” or goal.
The journey is so messy to me, and oftentimes, also painful, frustrating, disheartening. But with this mindset, I forget that it’s also exhilarating, inspiring, and joyful.
We can become consumed with this image in our minds of what the end goal will look and feel like, and that picture perfect point where we succeeded in reaching our goal. But this consumption can turn even the best goals into our current determents. Before you know it, you’re still not at that goal, but you’ve also missed out on so many joys that come from living in the present.
Being content is good. Goals are good. There is a fine balance between the two though. I struggle often with finding the fine line between drive and motivation to reach goals while also being happy and fulfilled by what I have. What is that line!?
Goals are such amazing things. Dream them, create a plan to achieve them, and pursue them, absolutely. But, also enjoy the journey.
The best example I have is when we think about the seasons of life. We enter a season of pursuing a marriage, the dating, engagement, marriage season. Then possibly a season of career growth, then perhaps a season of having a child, then a season of another child, etc. We create this very linear path of seasons and completely forget about the “in-between” or the seasons of waiting. After just getting married, I’m thrilled and enjoying that season of my personal life; however, at the same time, I’m dealing with a season of waiting in regards to my professional life.
We are called by God to be content. (Matthew 6:25-26, Philippians 4:12-13, 1 Timothy 6:6-7) But, we were not only called to be content in times of abundance, we were called to be content always, even in seasons of waiting.
There is no day that you will just accidentally stumble upon contentment, but instead it is a constant pursuit, a choice that you constantly work towards.
Make A Choice
When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need.’ -Dalai Lama
The first step to contentment is realizing that our feelings and disposition is entirely up to ourselves. You have to choose to be content.
We waste so many days waiting for the weekend, the next holiday, the next event, reaching the next step towards our goal, that we allow ourselves to miss the now. This waiting and wishing is a mindset we choose to have.
We have to take responsibility (cringe, responsibility?) for our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It isn’t until we own up to our own role as an obstacle to happiness and contentment that any change can occur.
We also have to remember that again, we are called to contentment in all circumstances. That means that we are called to contentment even when we are dealing with troubling and tough times.
It’s not an easy thing to be content in the best of times, so you can imagine how difficult it can be during what feels like the worst of times. But the thing about being content is that it is not dependent on our environment or our circumstances, but is instead dependent on our mindset, and our relationship with God. Contentment comes when we trust that where we are, is where we are supposed to be, and that God has us there for a purpose beyond our understanding.
“Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward & learning to enjoy whatever life has and this requires transforming greed into gratitude.” ― John Chrysostom
“Gratitude is the best attitude,” I bet you’ve heard that saying before! But it is so true. Gratitude is being thankful and appreciative.
But, it’s hard to realize all the wonderful blessings we have when we don’t stop to list them. We get so caught up in business and the pursuit of worldly goods, that we don’t take the time to think about all the good things we have in our lives.
So take the time to think on all the things that you have. Everything from a relationship with God, food on the table, a roof over your head, loved ones, the support of friends and family, etc. When you start listing out the good, you can begin to consciously be thankful for these things.
We’ve all hear the saying, “comparison is the thief of joy” and that is so true. There will always be someone better than us. Someone prettier, someone smarter, a better cook, a better organizer, a better wife, a better whatever. And even if the people we see aren’t actually better, with social media, it is so easy to convince ourselves that these people are better than us, even though we truly don’t know them intimately enough to know that’s the case.
The way I overcome feelings of unworthiness is to remember my calling. I was called to worship God and Jesus Christ, to love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and remain constant in my pursuit of a relationship with God. That’s it.
My Father made me exactly the way I am. To him, I am smart enough, funny enough, kind enough, everything enough. He has made me in his image and there is nothing more amazing than that. When we fix our eyes on these truths, it reminds us that we are enough. If God is happy, I’m happy. And instead of wasting energy on feelings of inferiority on earth, I’m going to use that time and energy on pursuing Christ, and loving my husband and family as well as I can.
Last on my list, but the most powerful and most important step by far. We alone cannot accomplish anything. Not our goals, not contentment. It is only through prayer and through constant communication with God that we will succeed.
So when you feel yourself constantly looking to the future and forgetting to remain satisfied in the present, pray. When you are forgetting to be thankful for your circumstances, pray. Pray in seasons of waiting, just as quickly as you would be to pray in times of trouble, or celebrate in times of joy.