We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.Immanuel Kant
Our mind’s tendency to always be in a state of desire leads us to a state of discontent where we are always seeking that which we do not have. We feel dissatisfied and unhappy as long as our desires are not fulfilled. Many of us live life as if it is like a race where we want the best of everything and want to be the best at everything. The moment we achieve one thing, the race for the next thing starts. We are always stretching ourselves to cover the remaining distance instead of looking back and appreciating the distance we have covered. We think what others have is better than what we have and feel others are more happier than we are. We forget that the others also are thinking the same about us. Even after looking at all the achievements, you still feel you are missing something.
Desire and contentment cannot coexist
Desire is the strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. Whereas contentment is satisfaction that follows fulfilling a desire. Even though our behaviour is driven by contentment that follows, desire keeps us focused on the constant stress of attaining something always and in the process we truly do not enjoy that which we already have.
Sometimes it results in we letting go long-term contentment for the short-term rush of desire. This leads us into attachment to material possessions or things and distracts us from the true purpose of our life. We all go through life seeking for contentment and in the process, we work, overwork, make changes in the way we dress,eat or keep changing our lifestyle, but at the end of the day we become victims of need to achieve more kind of thinking in terms of wealth, success or fame.
Contentment is the only way to fulfilment
Contentment is respecting the reality of the present, appreciating what you have and where you are in life. Contentment does not mean total absence of desires or complacency, it just means that you are satisfied with your present and is trusting the turns your life takes will be for the best. The truth is self-fulfilment doesn’t come from material things and is found when you reflect and find contentment. While satisfying certain desires or needs may be achieved with material things, attainment of fulfilment is only possible by cultivating lasting peace and contentment. And this is possible only by realising your nature, needs and your true self.
Rumination, comparison and future-thinking increase our discontentment
Ruminating on past, worrying about the future and unnecessary comparisons are the major obstacles of contentment. We are more prone to dwelling on our past and thinking about all the choices we could have made instead of the ones we made. The past can hold you back from making relevant choices in your present and thus affect your future outcomes. It is okay to reflect on your past mistakes and choices, but if you are spending more time thinking about past, it leaves you discontented. Even though memories help us shape our identity, excessive, repetitive dwelling on your past leaves you feeling negative about your present situation.
Similarly, worrying about future leads to unnecessary anxiety, stress and discontentment. It is important to remember that choices you made have brought you to where you are now and you can’t always know the things that will impact your life in the future. It is important to base your actions based on the knowledge of how the past has created the present and performing them based on values and authenticity helps you be contented.
Comparison is a natural tendency as we are social beings and can be helpful to certain extent as it can inspire you to change for better, but constant focusing on what others are achieving or have, leave you discontent and unhappy. Comparison based on the desire to improve on things you can’t change keeps you stuck and comparing yourself to others whom you think are worse off to boost feel better leads to regret and feelings of unhappiness. It is important to base your actions based on the knowledge of how the past has created the present and performing them based on values and authenticity instead of comparing to others helps you be contented.
- Learn to accept what comes as it comes. This might mean working with situations as they turn out rather than wishing things has happened in a different way. Accepting also means accepting others as they are, avoiding wishful thinking and seeing things or people or situations in a more realistic way.
- Let go of negative self-talk and connect to here and now. Don’t set expectations for ‘what should’ happen, instead shift your focus to ‘what is’ and start being grateful for what you have. Be willing to be fully present without hanging on to the past or rigidly aiming for a particular future.
- Get comfortable with unknown in your life. It might feel safe to stick with what you know but it is worth fighting that urge. Remain open to new thoughts, ideas, things, people and new situations or possibilities. Extend feelings of compassion to others and empathise with people who are different than you to unconditionally accept them.
- Distinguish between your needs and wants. Be honest with your needs. When you are able to do so, you relieve yourself from the stress of wanting more. Instead of wanting your possessions grow, take steps towards fulfilment by engaging in the never-ending process of self-improvement.
- Appreciate aspects of your day-to-day life that often go ignored in the busyness of living. Think of even daily things like weather, your work , meal and so on. Worry less about what other people think of you or might say. Follow insight gained from your own personal experience and inner guidance.
- Practice gratitude for all the things you have and your achievements. Being at peace with what you have achieved at your current point in life motivates you to achieve more meaningful goals and outcomes in the future. Be grateful for everything you have instead of spending time thinking about what you can’t.
To be happy with what you have, who you are and where you are is indeed difficult than said done. It is the process of cultivating inner peace by identifying with your true authentic self and its needs even while experiencing life’s difficulties or challenges. It is accepting the reality of the present and letting go of cravings of what you can’t. When you are accepting the situation as it is, you are allowing yourself to be happy and can get fully involved in the process of moving forward without being obsessed about the past or future. Only by being content that we arrive at a place of inner freedom and happiness that doesn’t depend on external circumstances.