Now some of you are maybe thinking there’s a contradiction with me speaking about contentment just after I shared my views about how to change your mindset so you can achieve what you want financially.
Doesn’t that seem to indicate discontentment? Not at all. You can want to better yourself and your life while being content right where you are.
I love to set goals. I love to achieve them too. But for me, I enjoy the journey and the fun getting there, and I’m content being that person.
So contentment isn’t a matter of being content with your current situation in life and never trying to improve it. It’s a matter of being content with what you have — but realizing it’s a normal desire as a human being to want to improve, no matter how happy we are.
The Art of Learning To Be Content
Contentment is more about happiness, and for most of us (some exceptions apply here: people with clinical depression, horrendous life circumstances, etc.) if you’re unhappy with your life right now, it’s because you’ve chosen to be unhappy. That sounds harsh, but in my experience it’s true.
What I know to be true is that conditions are not what makes us unhappy, but rather the choice of thoughts, of attitude and of behavior which makes us unhappy.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Happiness is an inside job,” right?
Well, it’s true.
During the times in my life when I’ve been down on my luck and unhappy it’s because I chose to focus on what I didn’t have or what was wrong. I hated my job; I didn’t have a boyfriend or husband; my father was ill. When I made the conscious effort to turn that around, my attitude changed for the better.
Now I was happy I had a job, lucky my father was still alive, and I learned to be content with being single by establishing new relationships with other fabulous women. All of it led me to feel happy and content with where I was at that moment.
And that my friends is the secret.
When I was deeply struggling with debt, one of the things I would often be happy about was how I had a roof over my head. I almost lost my home, but I didn’t, and I used this as a way to remind myself never to lose sight of what I did have in my life.
I was happy, despite my conditions, because I chose to be happy. I found contentment in what I already had, instead of wishing I had something else, instead of being discontented with what I had. Contentment not only made me happy, but it transformed my life in many ways. Here are two specific ways:
Simplicity, of course, means many things to many people, but for me, contentedness is at the core of simplicity. It’s about being content with less, with a simpler life rather than always wanting more; always acquiring more; living the bigger, better, best syndrome and never being satisfied.
Simplicity means looking at why you want something and solving that issue at the root. It’s the basis for this 28 Day No Spend Challenge. Because at the root of wanting more is not being content with what you have. Once you’ve learned to be content, you don’t need more. You can stop acquiring and start enjoying.
Now, I won’t claim I never want stuff. I wanted a Fitbit, and I got it. However, in my defense, I waited more than three months before buying it to make sure I needed it. But while I am not immune to wants, I have learned to catch myself more often than not, and to examine why I want something. In the process, I remember to tell myself I already have everything I could want or need.
The reason most of us have gotten into financial trouble is that we buy more than we can afford. And the cause of that spending is purchasing more things we WANT instead of only buying things we need. And of course, the cause of that is not being content with what we already own.
Finding contentment with the stuff you have and with a simpler life can lead to buying less, to buying things we need instead of want, and only spending what we can afford. I know this first-hand, as uncontrolled spending led to my 50K of credit card debt and contentedness led to me getting out of debt.
So how does one learn to be content?
We’re going to dig deep into two key concepts over the next two days. Gratitude and discerning a want vs. a need. These two issues are at the core of helping you learn to be content exactly where you are no matter where you are on your financial journey.