Are you still pursuing the missing ingredient in life?
Stop searching already. It’s a fool’s game that has been played for millenniums.
Marriage Was My Ticket To Fulfillment
I’m 25 and single. I desire marriage more than anyone else in the world according to a recent internal poll. Frankly, I’m custom built for such a one-on-one relationships.
I’ve always had a best friend since kindergarten. For a long time I thought it was “kindergarden” – a place where kids and select plants grow.
As I aged and hormones domineered up to 45% of my brain (I think I still have majority control), I wished more and more that my best friend was an attractive female.
She wouldn’t even have to love football and video games! (error corrected)
In my early twenties, marriage was the holy grail of life fulfillment. If I found that one person, I would be complete. I would tell this to my wife at our wedding – something about me being the lesser third. Through the past 3 years or so, I’ve been rethinking that and learning that my initial projections were off.
I learned that there is only one real way to be permanently thrilled with life. There’s also one way to never be satisfied, and it is…
“Just One More Step And I’ll Have Made It”
Life will always have more to offer. It’s an endless staircase of “that would be nice” possibilities.
I think about Warren Buffett. He just recently purchased a stake in Bank of America. He’s one of the richest men in the world. He doesn’t need to do anything, but he still invests because he enjoys it.
Ah… being rich and sipping piña coladas on the beach. Why don’t we see more rich people doing that? Maybe because that picture of paradise is not paradise. Maybe paradise doesn’t exist. After all, we take our flaws with us wherever we go.
For example, if you made your riches in an office setting and retired on the beach, the sun would destroy your skin. You might get bored sitting in a beach chair all day. You’d gain weight from all the piña coladas (you really should cut back on those).
If you were able to obtain your picture perfect life, you’d find that there is no such thing. You’d still get sick sometimes. You’d still have arguments with people you love.
Our brains tend to believe that the next big accomplishment or break is going to be the one that sets us for life. How many lottery winners feel that way initially and at once proceed to lose control and ruin their lives? Quite a few.
How many people have to live their entire lives before they realize there was never going to be perfection? Quite a few.
Don’t get me wrong – life can be VERY good and you can be VERY pleased, happy, excited, enthralled, and enchanted with it.
But you’ll never be completely satisfied until you decide to be.
Fame, Sex, Drugs, Death
We can learn so much from the rich and famous. I’m not talking about how they did it. Far more interesting is what they do in life once they’ve “made it.” With millions of dollars, they are free to move anywhere and do almost anything.
Then why do so many famous people kill themselves prematurely with drugs when they have access to everything the world can offer?
I think it’s because they don’t know what else to do. They’ve won the awards. They’ve garnered universal praise. They can have sex anytime with beautiful people.
But they’ve been chasing something and they haven’t found it yet. They look at their Emmy trophy and think, “This is the little trophy that so many covet. I’ve got it and it felt great at the time, but what is it doing for me now?” Something is still missing.
When money, power, and fame fail to satisfy their vague and confusing desires for fulfillment, they often give drugs or alcoholism a try.
When they’re under the influence, they do have that temporary euphoric and ethereal type of feeling they have been seeking for. (I’ve never taken a drug, but I’ve been tipsy from alcohol and it is a nice “all is well” feeling.) But then they overdose, and their shiny stardom is reduced to the reality of a frail human that fell prey to themselves.
I recognize that addiction plays a role there, but you can only get addicted by starting in the first place. Why do they start?
What’s the answer?
The answer is perhaps related to why some people want to achieve so much – they’re never satisfied. They want to be more and do more. They feel the need for more money, excitement, and recognition. Like an addiction – it’s never enough.
Some of the poorest people in the world have the answer – the key to a satisfying life – while many of the rich (including the middle class) drown themselves in distraction, alcohol, or drugs because they can’t find it.
It levels the playing field when you realize that materialistic items have no bearing on the capacity to appreciate life and be happy. Do you pity the poor, happy family in Africa or should they pity you?
Contentment is the answer. It is not thought of nearly enough – especially in modern materialistic society.
Simply being content is the holy grail of life satisfaction – the only answer. There is no amount of money that can fully satisfy. No amount of sex. No amount of power or fame. Those are empty on their own.
You’ll never be completely satisfied until you are.
It’s nothing more than a choice. I’d say the only prerequisite to being content is to love and be loved. I guess that’s why they say “all we need is love.” That must be why I’ve heard many friends say that the people they’ve met in third world countries are happier than the rich world – all they have is love and anything extra is a bonus.
In America, we seem to have all of the bonuses but lack the essentials of thankfulness, love, and contentment.
Once you accept your current position in life with positivity – not only will you be happier, but you’ll actually be much better equipped to reach some of those nicer things like money, fame, and hot tubs. These things are fine to have and enjoy – but we don’t need them to be happy and content.
Does Contentment = Stagnancy?
Contentment can sometimes be confused with stagnancy. The thought goes, “if you’re content where you are, why change anything?”
Fortunately, there is a miscalculation there. Can you see it?
Think about the mindset of a content person. Is it boredom? Is it laziness? No no no! A content person is full of passion. A content person enjoys life and naturally pursues its treasures!
Now, what is the mindset of a discontent person? Is it excitement? Is it vigor for life? No no no! A discontent person sulks and wishes for a better life. He may try to change his situation, but if his discontentment is underlying and chronic, it will never end. He will continue to chase Jeff Gordon around the track until he dies (because Jeff Gordon is a better driver).
Here Are Two Myths, Buster
Myth One: A content person does not desire change and improvement.
For example, I can be content as a single man (I am close, if not there now), but still desire marriage (I sure do!). The myth comes from thinking that desires come from discontentment (i.e. I don’t like this, and thus I desire change). Actually, desires come from neither discontentment or contentment, but from our personalities and natural preferences.
You do not have to be displeased with something to want to change it. Instead of bad-to-good, it can be good-to-better!
A content individual will have desires greater in number and in diversity. Why? Because a discontent person is typically focused on his problems instead of the other options available.
It’s like having a broken boat.
The content individual recognizes the merits in walking or going bowling as alternatives while still maintaining interest in fixing the boat. But the discontent individual will be absolutely obsessed with fixing the boat. Once it is fixed, he will probably obsess over getting a newer boat.
A discontent man fails to enjoy what he has now.
Myth Two: Discontentment is 100% useless.
I don’t want to give the impression that we should see everything like Mr. Rogers. Sometimes we just don’t like our neighborhood. Discontentment with a bad situation is both healthy and prudent. If you’re in an abusive relationship, don’t accept that situation. Be very discontent.
The broad point I’m making is that chronic discontentment is a life sieve. If you’re safe with access to food, water, love, and shelter – you already have a lot of reasons to be content in the long term. People around the world are content with LESS than that.
It’s when we make 50k a year and feel like we need 60k and then we’ll be all set that we run into a vicious cycle of never-ending “if onlys.”
Recognize the goodness in your life now and be content. Everything can always get better, which presents exciting opportunities to improve. Pursue better things, but don’t do it because better is required. Do it because better is better!
Let good be good enough.