Do you feel unfulfilled because you’re always chasing after something? Do you want to live a satisfying and more meaningful life?
The missing piece might be contentment, which is not the same as happiness!
Happiness is generally a fleeting emotion, while contentment is a state of mind. You can read all about the difference between happiness and contentment in my earlier post here.
Knowing how to learn to be content will fill the yawning gap in your life, so keep reading.
What It Means to Be Contented
Being content is being satisfied with your life, regardless of how things are. It means standing behind the things you have and your station in life without resenting your situation.
To be content means:
- Enjoying inner peace, no matter what’s happening in your world.
- Having a definite sense of purpose that leads to fulfillment.
- Seeing setbacks as learning opportunities and stepping stones for growth.
- Not motivated by competition or peer pressure.
- Appreciating what you have, no matter how little.
As you probably already figured, developing these positive characteristics takes a lot of consistent work and patience. Thankfully, the benefits are well worth the effort, and below are my top tips for building these traits.
How to Learn to Be Content: 6 Essential Tips
1. Be Your Authentic Self
If you struggle with being content, you are likely neck deep in the trap of unhealthy self-comparison. Of course, social comparison can give you valuable feedback, but constantly stacking yourself up against others to determine your self-worth can lead to psychological pain.
And your continuous focus on other people’s achievements (real or perceived) prevents you from appreciating the many blessings in your life.
You’ve only got one life; why would you want to be like someone else? Why should you spend a single moment of your rather short stay on earth comparing yourself to others?
The first lesson in contentment is living unapologetically!
Here’s what that means:
Focus on the things you find meaningful, regardless of what others think. You don’t have to measure up to anyone’s standards but yourself.
Study yourself to deepen your self-knowledge. Instead of wasting time comparing yourself to others, spend time discovering what makes you tick ― the things that make you come alive ― and, by all means, do them!
By paying attention to the things you find purposeful in life, you will automatically start living a contented life, even without trying.
For example, you might be passionate about helping parents of challenged kids to positively manage their children. You will find inner peace when you give your undivided attention to fulfilling this purpose.
And as mentioned, enjoying inner peace and feeling purposeful are attributes of contentment.
2. Monitor Your Ambitions
Contentment is not an excuse for passivity or stagnation. You should never squelch your desire for growth and improvement just because you are content with how things are.
That said, you must discipline your ambitions. What is the motivation behind your ambition? You likely have a prideful ambition if you are driven by competition.
Unfortunately, an ambition driven by unhealthy competition isn’t always obvious, at least to some people.
Consider the following questions to figure out the motive for your ambitions:
- Ask why you want what you want. Will achieving your ambition make you a better person? Or will it make you “fit” into someone else’s circle?
- Do your ambitions match your definition of success, and are they aligned with your values?
- Are you looking to achieve a goal because of peer pressure? Or is it something you truly want for yourself?
In other words, continuous self-examination is a key ingredient for how to learn to be content.
3. Distinguish Between What’s Temporal and Long Lasting
Think deeply about the things that make you feel dissatisfied with life. Be honest and objective; you’ll notice that these things are mostly transient.
Give up the idea of measuring your life’s quality by the number of material things you can accumulate. To develop contentment, you must invest your energy in more meaningful things that last longer.
- Build meaningful relationships with your significant other, family, and friends.
- Find ways to positively impact the lives of those around you.
- Solve problems for others if you can.
While these might not be tangible, they create a more lasting satisfaction and make you feel fulfilled.
4. Live in the Present
Contentment means satisfaction with the present. Even if you seek improvement, you don’t lash out at how your life is unfolding.
Here’s another way to say this: Not being content is holding onto the past or living in worry about your future.
For example, your fortunes may have been upended due to the recent pandemic, and you constantly wish things would return to how they were. This constant attention to the past can lead to dissatisfaction with your current life.
Also, you may worry that you won’t measure up to your peers, so you pressure yourself to work harder than is safe for your physical and mental health.
Here are a few practical things you can do to help keep your focus on the present and be content with your life as it is:
- Practice mindfulness meditation: For a few minutes at a time, give your full attention to everything you do. Consistently do this daily to improve your ability to live in the moment.
- Spend time with people who amplify your strengths: Stay away from naysayers and people who remind you of your mistakes and misfortunes.
- Do one thing at a time: Avoid the illusion of multitasking. Focus on one task until completion, so you don’t pressure yourself into working more than necessary.
- Spend as little time as possible on social media: Highly visual social media like Snapchat and Instagram increases your chances of falling into unhealthy comparisons.
Always remember that living in the present means never postponing your happiness until everything is perfect. It is accepting how things are and not trying to force them to be any other way before you are happy.
5. Talk About What You Are Grateful For
What readily comes to mind when you hear “practice gratitude?” If you’re like most people, you will probably think of getting a journal and making a list of good things in your life.
There is nothing wrong with practicing gratitude this way. In fact, journaling is a great way to focus and internalize positive emotions.
However, you can adopt a different approach to increase the positive emotions associated with gratitude. Instead of making the practice of gratitude mostly a private affair, take things up a notch by sharing your gratitude list with close family and friends.
What does this have to do with being content?
Research shows that sharing positive experiences with loved ones can cause greater life satisfaction. The active-constructive response (or enthusiastic support) of those you share your gratitude list with can help amplify the positive emotions you get from those experiences.
With higher life satisfaction comes the ability to accept things as they are, even if they are imperfect. This long-lasting state of being is what contentment is all about.
Here’s something I suggest you give a try:
- Write down the things you genuinely appreciate (big or small).
- Do this for seven days in a row.
- Once a week, find a close family or trusted friend to share your journal with.
You will notice how better you feel about yourself, the experiences you are grateful for, and your supportive loved ones when you share your gratitude list with them as against when you kept it to yourself.
6. Surround Yourself With Positive People
Speaking of sharing your gratitude list with close pals, one of the best things you can do if you struggle with being content is to keep your support system close.
Your support system ― close family, friends, or peers ― can help nudge you in the direction of your life’s purpose and deal with challenges along your path.
However, be picky when it comes to choosing the people that form your support system. You want to choose generally optimistic people as your social support system. Associate with individuals who consistently demonstrate contentment. This way, they can give you emotional and practical support when you lose your way.
I strongly recommend reading this post if you want to learn how to keep the positive people in your life as close as possible.
How to learn to be content isn’t rocket science, but it takes patience and consistent practice. If you follow the tips in this guide, it will be easier to give your full attention to what you define as purposeful and meaningful, and you will live by your standards.
Doing what makes you happy for a while is great, but remember that chasing after fleeting happiness is not as important as seeking long-term satisfaction, which is what true contentment brings.