My younger brother didn’t excel in school or sports and has no accolades to boast of. He works at a grocery store warehouse, lives close to my parents in Texas, and doesn’t post anything on social media that would make him the least bit enviable. But this kid loves with the purest heart I’ve ever seen, and I admire him greatly. In short, my brother lives an incredibly rich life.
Not rich in a monetary sense, but rich in love and meaning. I once asked him what his goals were, and he said he wanted to save up to buy some land, build a barndominium (a mix between a barn and condominium), find a good wife and have a family. That’s it.
There was no mention of becoming a millionaire, driving a luxury car, or achieving the fame, success, and fortune the world tells us we need to be happy. He works hard at his job, makes the most of every day, and gives a warm smile and handshake to everyone he meets along the way. I believe my brother possesses a gift very few come to attain called contentment.
What Is Contentment?
The Oxford Dictionary describes contentment as “a state of happiness and satisfaction,” and the Merriam Webster dictionary describes it as “showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status or situation.”
Contentment is a proactive choice we can make in every situation regardless of circumstances.
Contentment isn’t just a happy attitude; it's a peaceful ease of mind. Contentment is a proactive choice we can make in every situation regardless of circumstances: to focus on all the blessings we have, instead of what we lack.
Why Am I Not Content?
Everywhere we look, there are signs and sounds screaming, “YOU NEED THIS TO BE HAPPIER!” We take the bait over and over again, thinking that new article of clothing, innovative beauty tool, relationship, toned body, or tropical vacation will finally fill our deepest longings. We fall into the trap of comparison with others who appear to have better lives than ours, and end up exhausted, overworked, financially stretched, and unfulfilled trying to “keep up with the Joneses.”
How Can I Become More Content?
Andrew Williams said, “The key to contentedness is not the absence of work; neither is it to cap each day with the witless abandon of hollow entertainment, but to fill your days with that which fills your life with meaning.”
I believe Mr. Williams is onto something. To fill our days with meaning, we have to identify what makes us truly happy – not just what makes us look happy in a picture for Instagram. I have found that a large number of things that truly bring joy to my soul are simple and unassuming, such as stories and songs around a campfire, playing old-fashioned board games, a meal around a table set with loved ones, walks in the mountains, and chats over coffee with good friends.
The key to contentedness is to fill your days with that which fills your life with meaning.
Practically speaking, I’ve found it's helpful for me to make a list of all the things I'm grateful for and place it in a prominent spot in my home. When I start thinking of all the things I want or don’t have, I read the list, and my mindset always shifts as I think on all the amazing gifts I have instead of the things I lack.
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown states, “I see the cultural messaging everywhere that says that an ordinary life is a meaningless life.” But, I look at my brother and his humble, slow-paced, routine way of life, and I think he has far more contentment than many of us who are chasing after a successful career, burning the candle at both ends, and trying to hang onto youth for as long as possible.
I see the cultural messaging everywhere that says that an ordinary life is a meaningless life.
In light of this, I have a proposal: Let’s make a commitment to embrace and appreciate where we are and what we have today – even if it's far from where we want to be, even if we don’t own everything we want, even if our relationships need work, and especially if we don’t have this beautiful, messy thing we call life all figured out. A gift called contentment is waiting.