I’ve been thinking about contentment. It’s especially important to me around the holidays when the focus is on consumption. I believe in reaching for big goals and dreaming about owning things like a tesla. However, in all my striving, I want to have a deep contentment for what I have and where I am.
Become a millionaire not for the million dollars, but for what it will make of you to achieve it.Jim Rohn
Jim Rohn says, “Become a millionaire not for the million dollars, but for what it will make of you to achieve it.” And I love this quote, because it reminds me why we strive for better belongings and a stronger body. If we become aware of why we need goals, we can have what we really want, contentment and joy, right now. With all goals, the process of continuously learning is what matters, not what you end up with when you achieve the goal. When you understand this, you let your expectations for any specific outcome go. You instead focus on being present to what you need to do at this moment to become your best self and to serve others.
Contentment is a continued practice. It’s like in yoga (unless of course you’re an expert monk and your mind remains focused for extended periods of time at will), when your thought train wanders away to another village. You first have to slow down to notice that you’ve wandered and then you have to gently nudge yourself back to contentment.
To nudge myself back to contentment, I use some different techniques. One thing that helps me is to remember the nights I slept at a campsite or in my car with my mom and younger sister. Many of those days, we would eat one meal per day during Arby’s dollar menu deal time. We thought Arby’s was the most delicious food on earth. We spent a lot of time exhausted and crabby due to sleep deprivation and hunger, but we also still had so much joy. My mom and sister and I never laughed harder or spent more time together. One night, we were trying to find a spot to park and sleep where we wouldn’t upset anyone in the neighborhood (Basically, you need something not under street lights or directly in front of a home). I was so tired, I kept falling asleep in the process of finding a spot. I would pop up when my mom and sister would ask me, “How is this spot?” and all I could say is, “What? Where are we?” We could not stop laughing at how hilarious I sounded when we were driving around streets we all knew so well. Simply remembering how difficult that time period was and how we made it through, makes me more content with what I have.
Another technique I use when I feel worried is asking myself the following questions:
Is worrying about this serving me? If the worry motivates me to make a change, then the worry is serving me. I recognize it as a call to action. The worry dissipates when I take action.
If there is not a thing I can change, I ask myself, can I do something greater with my mind and my time? And the answer in this circumstance is always, yes. Sometimes all it takes is recognition of an unnecessary thought for it to disappear.
Another question I ask myself when I face worry or difficulty is: what is this teaching me? What am I learning because of this pain? Sometimes, I don’t get an answer to this right away, but I smile to myself, because I remember that every pain has made me better. I remember I am lucky to continue to face things that challenge me.
Can I more fully understand what it means to be hungry now? Yes. Can I feel a deeper empathy for those who are homeless and suffering? Yes.
If you look, there is always something to learn and an opportunity for growth and that gives me great contentment.