Content – adjective – satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else. (Not blogger content)
I have struggled throughout my life with being content. I’m assuming others have as well. Maybe it is a “grass is always greener” mentality. Perhaps it is the environment we are raised in where we think we have to keep up with the Joneses. Maybe it’s our competitiveness.
I was reminded of my lack of ability to feel content by a recent news story where Albert Einstein shed some light on his theory of happiness. In November of 1922, Einstein was on a trip in Tokyo giving a series of lectures after he had learned he had won the Nobel Prize in physics. A courier had delivered a message to him in his hotel room and to “tip” the courier he wrote two brief notes to the man instead. One of the notes said (translated from German) “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” This note sold recently at auction for $1.56 million dollars.
Someone reading the note might say “of course that makes sense,” but actually living up to it is quite hard.
I am definitely one of those people. I have always wondered why others were content with their careers, their relationships, their hobbies, etc. This is because I struggle with saying “this is good enough, I don’t need more or better.” My lack of ability to be content lead me to leave my first “real job” out of college, after two years, for greener pastures. Two years later I changed positions again. Consistently, I always have my eyes open for a situation that could be better than what I have now.
Not being content has its pros and cons. I have a lot more autonomy in my current job, and my income is much higher than it would be had I been content with my first job after college. I was also not content with how my mind and body felt after 8, 9, 10+ hour days at a desk in front of my computer. Remembering those feelings helps me get my ass out of bed every morning at 6:30am to hit the gym four days a week.
Now while not being content has lots of benefits, it also brings lots of problems. The feeling of wanting more or never being satisfied can wear on a person. Whereas I used to not understand people who were content, I am now somewhat envious of that state of mind. This is anecdotal, but people who appear more content seem to stress less and are more able to relax. Both are great qualities to have, especially for those in strenuous careers.
In the end, I think it’s all about striking a balance. Being content enough with life to allow yourself to enjoy it and relax, while not being too content where you aren’t challenging yourself or allowing yourself to find purpose.
Do you think being content is the end goal? Does being content hold back your ambition? Is finding a balance key?