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?

6 thoughts on “Content

  • I’m not sure I struggle with being “content” as much as I do just routine. When I start to robotically go through life without really thinking about things any more, I get that itch to move on. Maybe it’s because I feel like I get stuck in a rut…always doing the same thing, over and over again. I get bored with jobs, for example, over time. After a couple years, the excitement wears off and it just becomes the same ol’ grind.

    I consistently looked to move companies every five or six years, max.

    My dad used to tell me, “Get comfortable, but not TOO comfortable”, in your work. Meaning, find a place that you generally enjoy, but don’t get so comfortable that you start to slack off or not provide as much value as you may once had. I do believe that being too comfortable (or content) can hold back your career, absolutely. It doesn’t necessarily *always* happen that way, but it can. For me, moving around helped to avoid that.

    • I think we’re similar in that regard. Change helps us not be as content. I look at change as a challenge. A fresh slate perhaps.

  • I think finding your balance of content and restlessness is a personal thing that varies from individual to individual. If I had been content at my last job and stayed there, I’d most likely have been laid off ~2 yrs ago. I went out on a limb looking to find a better job that I’d be happier at and hit a home run. I’m happy here and it’s been ~3.5 years now. Even if the O&G economy was still thriving I’d be content staying here. There could be better money opportunities out there, but I’ll balance happiness and money anyday and for me happiness beats money.

    I know a few colleagues that were in my same mental and actual position at my last company and instead of trying to look for something better they just soldier on “content”. Like Steve said above, “get comfortable but not too comfortable.”

    I find for myself it takes work to be content in other areas of life. I need to remind myself a lot to appreciate the present and relax and be in the moment. It gets easier the more I do it, but it still takes conscious effort.

    • I’m glad you were able to find something where you’re actually happy at work. It’s hard to find! Not being content definitely helped you in that scenario.

  • I think contentment comes in channels. You can be content with your relationships, and discontent with your career. With your health, but restless about your lifestyle. It is rare to find someone who is content with every aspect of their lives all the time. Part of wisdom is understanding that it is ok to be ill at ease, as long as you don’t let it define you. You are not your job, career, relationships or lifestyle. These things merely inform as to the whole. They are little pieces of what you are becoming, and if you are still breathing, they are constantly in flux. Someone once said “the only thing that never changes is that everything is always changing” (or something like that anyway). Perhaps contentment is just being ok with that.

    • Totally agree that it comes in channels. I’m content with a lot of things in life outside of work.Thanks for sharing.

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