Contentment – a really simple choice

Someone asked me at a party why I was going to call my blog Common Sense Contentment and not Common Sense Joy, Delight or Bliss? They said contentment was a bit of a cop-out, a settling, making-do and why would anyone want to read about ideas for achieving mediocrity. Shouldn’t we all aspire to the spectacular?

Well, no.

Contentment is not a consolation prize for those who don’t achieve greatness. It is very difficult to achieve, particularly in consumer cultures where our lives are saturated with messages of aspiration, inadequacy and excess. Contentment means stepping aside, breathing, thanking and sharing. It implies a continued state of mind, rather than a fleeting experience of happiness which may or may not linger. It speaks of a choice, a decision and deliberate commitment to being grateful and welcoming the peace, joy and abundance that lets in.

I assumed I was living the best life I could. I understood that my purpose was to achieve as many goals as I could during my time here, make memories (and be sure to preserve them all!), attain a level of certainty about finances, how to ‘do’ life, monitor the health of loved ones and throw in the occasional experience of joy and freedom from worry. But, I think now that I was wrong.

Many (but not all) of us are very fortunate to have everything we need: safety, food, clean water, sanitation and Maslow’s basics. This is a very real gift that is so easily taken for granted. Some, are even more privileged and have had access to higher education, thriving job markets, great homes, healthcare, luxuries, mentors and conveniences of all description. If you’re lucky, appreciate it and be grateful.

And we need to share.

Whether you are a monotheist, spiritualist, agnostic, atheist or polytheist, you need to get down on your knees and say “thank you” to whatever power you understand to be responsible, because it is wonderful, and life is shorter than we realise. One poorly judged moment or unlucky circumstance and those around you are left reeling from the loss of what could have been.

I don’t believe we should all panic and spend our savings on bucket list experiences; rather, consider carefully how you can make your life matter – to you and to others Decide what you want to achieve (and be honest with yourself) and then just make it happen as best you can.

Dream big, sure. Aim high – but not for fame or fortune. The likelihood is that you could make a real difference just by changing your perspective, losing the consumptive attitude, freeing your mind and soul from the clutter? Take control of your choices. Maybe it’s a simple as stripping back to basics and muddling along from there?

What makes you feel connected to those you encounter, to the Earth itself, family, friends, your faith, society or your own values? Are you doing that? Are you helping others and are you being kind and generous? Are you living the life you could?

I am finding these ideas liberating, exciting and challenging. After decades of muddle, I finally sense an emerging clarity about who I am and the purpose I have on this planet. I don’t have all the answers and I am enjoying the discovery of how big life can be when you focus on others.

That is enough of a foundation for me – I don’t want a complicated life. I like simplicity – it gives me the sturdy footing to launch myself into the chaos where all the good bits are found.