How to be content? Never stop, but appreciate
When speaking about contentment I often hear people associate the idea of contentment with being able to look back at the end of your life and being able to say that you lived a 'good life' that you ticked off all the items from you bucket list and that you've more or less experienced everything you wish. I think there is a fundamental flaw with this aspiration however, as to get to this point you must, at one time or another, give up.
Now I'd like to think that giving up is never an appealing option to me, but of course I am (barring the un-forseen) a while away from this point, and therefore lack some perspective. The essential idea though, I think is quite important. Too often we treat life like a to-do list and it expands as we create new goals, but must always be within reach. As well as this, I think too often our goals are too heavily reliant on the previous ones, i.e. we rely too much on a linear progression in our mind, we imagine learning at school, followed by a job, followed by perhaps marriage and family. From here we dream of retirement and having more time to ourselves. My contention is that our lives don't have to be that way. And even perhaps they shouldn't be that way.
These pressures and the priority you give the things in your life are often sculpted by exterior forces. For instance there is such a strong notion of the flow of one's life that it is not unusual or unexpected to be conveyed through the questions people ask. First about school during childhood, and once finished school we are asked about uni or a job. People assume your goals and through these actions, the actions of society as a whole, we scope a vision for everyone's life. As though there could be such a blueprint for the diverse nature of our lives that should fit us all.
The problem this creates is that each goal feels dependent on the last and failing one can bring the whole stack tumbling down. The very idea that our life be predicated on a delicate stack rather than a pyramid of achievements and failures is absurd to me. Contentment comes not from the ladder of success or pillars of achievement but through knowing that you are doing your best at each moment, and that despite past events or future eventualities, your life has been lived adding to this pyramid, creating experiences and completing goals that have personal value to you. The present is the time to accept this. The past cannot change and as long as you deny the common notion of linear goals your past is what brought you here and what makes you who you are, the only reasonable reaction is to allow it to be.
Most of all looking toward the future, you must try not to limit your goals based on past events on current circumstance. But rather keep building upwards and striving onwards, because while you may have failed in the past or be facing difficulties now. There is always more to do in life.
So our goals needn't be so small. The present is fleeting so use today to make tomorrow better and continue being ambitious with your future. While planning out this article I was reminded of one of my favourite movies, Dead Poets Society, wherein commencing each session they would read the author Thoreau Walden's wish to 'live deliberately' and to suck 'the marrow out of life'. I would contend that instead of striving for a list of ticks at the end of our lives we should instead aim for an unceasing collection of goals that could never be completed, for why stop, when there is more in life to achieve. Do something with every moment you can truly appreciate and use life to its fullest.
I hope this post will inspire you as it really got me thinking and motivated. If you'd like to have a chat about any ideas I wrote about in this post hit me up on any of my social media listed below. Thanks for reading.
- etopiei (1/6/17)