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Contentment and Satisfaction

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How much is enough? In conversations, I participate in, and in books that I read, I frequently hear someone say, I want to improve, I want to get better, where will we go next. Another term is let’s build a culture of continuous improvement.

Who could disagree with that? I want to get better at what I do. In all of the areas of my life. My marriage, parenting, health, and leadership.

This week I paused for a second and thought to myself, is striving for constant growth the only option? Is it possible to pursue being content, thankful, and satisfied? Do I have room in my life for it? Does our culture have enough space to consider it?

For instance, there are limits to growth. Take your height, for example. I am currently 6’4. I have been this height since I was 18. Imagine if I would keep growing at the same pace? Right now, I would be over 12 feet tall. That would create a few problems in my life, I couldn’t drive in a car or walk around in my home. In fact, where would I get clothes? So I am content with my height and glad that I am not getting better or improving in that area.

As I think more about it if I am always focused on getting better and better, who am I helping? Who am I sacrificing for? For instance, at work, is it possible to allow someone else to pursue a project or opportunity that you could do, but you don’t because it creates an avenue for another person to experience victory? I read so much about the harmful effects of chronic stress.

Chronic stress usually is tied to more. Rarely do I read about chronic stress being linked to being content or satisfied. I know in my inner being when I think of being content or happy, I tie it to being lazy, I get afraid that if I were to slow down, bad things would happen. For instance, I would lose everything, end up homeless, broke, and destitute. So I read more, listen more, grind more get up earlier, go to sleep later, drink energy drinks, and work harder.

Why because I need to get better. I need to make an impact. This is that way I am supposed to think, right? This is what the books say? This is what people around me say. Get better . Improve. Look for something to change. Is this the only way? I am beginning to think differently. Just a bit.

It’s just a thought. It is something I am curious about. In a world of busy and constant striving for more, is it possible or acceptable to be content, thankful, and satisfied?

Comments

  1. Hi Steven,

    This is such a great topic considering the race for continuous improvement that leads to chronic stress.

    I wonder if there is a place that being present and content with what we have right now can co-exist with the needs of a growth mindset.

    I have a daily gratitude practice when I reflect on what I am thankful for at the beginning and end of each day. At the same time, I also think and write about the things I want to continue to learn and experience.

    How can we help others learn to be present and satisfied while they continue to seek new experiences that will faciliate learning and growth?

    Thank you for triggering these thoughts!

    Maria

  2. I wonder if there aren’t two different things that are being referred to as “better” or as “something to improve,” and if that isn’t part of the problem. It’s great for me to become more skilled at what I do—what could be wrong with that, as you say? But I can only do so much, and if there aren’t slack times, there’s no time for renewal and creativity. So when I try to turn the volume up on quantity of production, then that leads to the bad results you are describing. Of course, the problem is that we optimize for what we measure, and productivity is easier to measure than brilliance. Is there a way to approach this that brings us to contentment and improvement at the same time? Do they have to be opposed?

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