Lots of people and organizations offer the “secret” to lasting contentment. And why not? This is a quality everyone desires but few seem to achieve.
Consider the possibility there’s no secret—no surefire formula or magic elixir—needed to experience contentment, but rather simple shifts in attitude and action that anyone can implement. This doesn’t mean that simple changes are always easy, but these methods can be pursued by anyone at any time.
1. Recognize where contentment comes from. If you’re looking for anything external, beyond yourself, to bring contentment, you’ll be searching forever. Contentment comes from within you—always.
2. See your identity as more than what you do and have. Most people build their “identity” out of things that have nothing to do with who they really are. Jobs can be taken away. Possessions can be lost. Awards are quickly forgotten. Contentment comes when your identity as a human being comes from who you are, not what you do.
3. Be true to you. A sure way to kill contentment is trying to be someone you aren’t. But authentic people resist the impulse to play games or put on a false persona to impress others. They are real, demonstrating the truth of who they are deep down.
4. Strive to live in the present moment. Human nature leads us to dwell on past events or fret about future ones. The only true moment is right now, and living fully in the present relieves anxiety about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow.
5. Recognize the spiritual side of life. Contented people understand that there are deeper meanings to the often-superficial world we live in. As French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin said, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.”
6. Get out of the “more, more, more” trap. The stuff we purchase brings a surge of happiness and excitement, but those feelings fade. Possessions will never produce inner peace. Next time you pull out your credit card, pause for a moment to consider why you’re doing what you’re doing.
7. Practice forgiveness. Holding on to hurts is toxic to your heart and soul. Forgiving someone who has harmed you is never easy, but working through the process removes a major obstacle on the path toward contentment.
8. Make gratitude a daily practice. Get in the habit of giving thanks throughout the day. Count your blessings—literally—by making a mental or written list.
9. Pursue excellence, forgo perfection. Perfection is an illusion that fills many people with anxiety and disappointment. Trying to meet impossible standard is, in fact, impossible. Striving for excellence—always doing your very best—is deeply satisfying.
10. Keep growing. Apathy is an enemy of contentment, because stagnant, stuck people are sure to be frustrated. Contented men and women seek to continually grow, mature, and improve.
11. Do away with worry. Nothing undermines inner peace faster than fear over some future event, which may or may not ever happen. Contented people know what is worth worrying about (not much) and what isn’t.
12. Pace yourself. The fast pace and chronic busyness experienced by most people these days leaves little time for rest and reflection. Ease up on the accelerator.
13. Make way for fun. As adults we sometimes have to make a point of doing what comes naturally to kids: play. Find something that you enjoy —romping in the backyard with your dog, making paper snowflakes, water balloon fights with your kids. Do it no matter how silly you feel—and notice what happens to your outlook on life.
14. Choose your traveling companions wisely. In the journey of life, your friends offer support during hard times, share laughter during good times, and believe the best about you at all times. And this goes doubly for the lover you choose as your life companion.