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The Value of Contentment

by Jackie Beck

When I was a little girl, I found a very old storybook at my grandma’s house that quickly became my favorite. It was about a little cat named Abner who was always happy and content. Abner would sit in sunny spots, drink cream, and play at catching his own tail.

His other animal friends would talk about him, wondering at how he could possibly be so happy all of the time when they had all these things to worry about — things like losing their tail-feathers or whether it might rain.

The moral of the story, of course, is to practice being happy and content instead of worrying about things that are beyond our control.

Practice contentmentBeing content is literally valuable

While some people are just naturally more easy-going and content than others, the fact is that we can all learn to enjoy the things we already have, and the things we’re already able to do. Learning to be content is valuable, because when you’re content, by definition you are happy with your life.

You aren’t off stressing about whether you might be laid off “due to the economy”. You aren’t unhappy because you can’t afford a $225,000 Ferrari. Or maybe more realistically, you aren’t unhappy because you haven’t gotten a new car in a couple of years, or because your neighbor has a new furniture in their living room when yours has been around the block.

You don’t — as the saying goes — spend money that you don’t have, to buy things that you don’t really want, to impress people that you don’t like. You stay off the debt merry-go-round. You enjoy the things you do have, and get the things that are important to you. And you plan for emergencies and unexpected events without worrying about them.

Contentment is not a destination

The thing to remember about contentment is that it’s not a destination. You don’t work and work and then finally get there. You just practice enjoying now. Each moment. There is always something to enjoy, if you look for it hard enough. And once you get into the practice of looking, there are more and more things to enjoy.

Eventually, a funny thing will happen.

One day you’ll wake up and hear someone talking about how they really want the latest and greatest XYZ gadget because it’s just so much better than their 6 month old ABC gadget, and you’ll think to yourself, “Why? ABC is perfectly good.”

That’s the day you’ll realize that you’ve stepped off the hamster wheel of consumerism and onto the lazy river of what’s important to you. Of course, you will still buy and do things. Contentment is not about taking a vow of poverty. You may even buy and do some pretty darn expensive things, but it’ll be a choice that you enjoy, not a compulsion to fill a void or meet the so-called expectations of society.

You’ll practice contentment.

Posted in Simple Living on 03.23.12 with 10 comments.

10 Responses to “The Value of Contentment”

  • Money Infant says:

    You’ll know you are REALLY content when one day you hear someone talking about how they really want the latest and greatest XYZ gadget because it’s just so much better than their 6 month old ABC gadget, and you’ll think to yourself “Why would I even NEED that gadget, my life is fine the way it is”.

  • Definitely need to take a lesson from Abner today. Thanks for sharing.

  • I have been wondering why more and more people do not get contented with their lives? I found the answer here: Consumerism. And I agree with you. But at this day of smartphones, iPhones, laptops, and tablets, I am still using a desktop and a simple 3-year old cellphone that can send and receive text messages and phone calls. With the high level of technology that we have, you may say that I am being left behind. But honestly, I am CONTENTED with what I have right now. They serve the purpose why I have them and that is the most important reason for me.

  • I have a lot of friends that make considerably more than me. They are completely miserable. I actually can’t think of one guy making over $200K that seems happy (at least in my circle). They work around the clock, travel constantly, or have stress from debt because they felt compelled to upsize and keep up with the Joneses.

    • Jackie says:

      Your comment reminded me that I have no idea how much most of the people I know earn. I do think that how you earn your money can make a big difference too though — meaning whether or not it involves a lot of stress or if it’s doing something you really enjoy.

  • William says:

    You only feel happy doing what makes you happy no matter what price is attached to it. I think people forget that when they are surrounded by people who want bigger houses, faster cars, more expensive meals etc. . .

    It’s funny how more money doesn’t make you happy yet so many people I meet so many people that think their lives will be easier if they had more money. A few years later, these people have more money and they still want more money.

    • Jackie says:

      More money can certainly make your life a lot easier, especially if you’re starting out without much of it. But it can also complicate stuff, and lead to “i want-itis”. You’re so right about only feeling happy doing what makes you happy regardless of the price.

  • Eddie says:

    Being content now is hard when I think about all the things I want that will make me happy. But I’m trying to change my ways by looking back and seeing how far I’ve come and how better off I am now compared to only a few years ago. I have to learn to enjoy every step of the journey and not think the destination is what will make me happy lol.

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