April 24, 2009

Finding Contentment starts NOW

Since Ironman is done and dusted its been a time for reflection for the athletes who took part. The extra time they have seems to go into thinking about their lives and the effect that Ironman had on it in a broader sense. This applies to anyone who’s been through a rather large experience and then gets to thinking. I know many people who seem to have “everything” – a great job, amazing wife/hubby, great kids, financial stability, etc. But as we get to talking about contentment with life, I often hear it said, “That’s what I need — I need to find contentment.”

This is usually combined with an emotional outlet, a deep sigh, as this is really the crux of the matter.
I guarantee you, that if you feel the same, you are not alone, either: many people feel that there is something missing from their lives, that despite having everything they need they aren’t happy, aren’t content, cannot find satisfaction. It eats at them like a hungry piranha.

I’ve been through stages in my life like this, and I’ve also climbed out of such ruts more than once. I know it isn’t easy, but I also know that it’s possible. Looking back on these times in my life, when I overcame discontentment, I’ve realized there are three things you can do, and for my experience, these are the only things that you can do.

Change Your Attitude and Perspective

This is huge. I can’t overstate the importance of how you look at things. And I know, the power of positive thinking is a cliche in the self-help world, and a bicycle that has been ridden once too many in the past 5 years, but that’s because it works. It’s worked for me in everything I’ve done, and without it I would have accomplished nothing — no popular blog, no best-selling book, no running three marathons, nothing.

But it’s more than accomplishing things — by changing your attitude, you can become happy, almost immediately. It’s a choice. The first step is making that choice. I think in modern society, people miss the points in the following ways:

1. Appreciate what you have. You already have some amazing things in your life, whether you realize it or not. Most of us have incredible family members, friends, other loved ones who love us back. Learn to appreciate what a miracle that is. Most of us have good health, which is another miracle. Most of us have eyes, with which to enjoy the amazing miracles of sunsets and nature and beauty all around us. Most of us have ears, with which to enjoy music, one of the greatest miracles ever. Be grateful for each of these things, and more! Take time every day, throughout the day, to thank life for all that it has given you, to thank others for what they give you, to be grateful.

2. Find good in everything. Everything can be seen in a negative way, or a positive way. I’ve said this before, but even the death of my grandfather was an opportunity for me to appreciate life more, to appreciate his amazing life, to appreciate the time I have with my loved ones, to be thankful I’m even alive. When I get sick, it’s a chance for me to rest. When I was jobless once, I had more time with my family, more chances to create, a fresh start on life. When your child is throwing a tantrum, he’s expressing himself, asserting his individuality, being human. Find the good in anything that normally irks you, in anyone who you have issues with.

3. Start believing that you can change things. A general feeling that things are too difficult to change, that they’ll never get better, can in itself be the cause of our problems. Instead, start believing that you can make things better, and you will open the doors for change. And you can change things — I’ve done it, and many, many others have too. It’s possible.

4. Enjoy the moment. Whatever you’re doing right now, or at any time during the day, take the time to enjoy it. Anything: reading, writing, talking with a co-worker, taking a shower, walking up stairs, eating, washing dishes, sweeping. Anything can be fully appreciated if you pay attention. It makes life better.

Take Some Kind of Positive Action

It doesn’t matter what the action is, as long as you’re doing something positive. Start small — just take a tiny little baby step. But start.

And you know what? Taking that little baby step will feel like a victory. At first, it might be a tiny step, but then, as you find your confidence, it will mean you are taking bigger steps, more calculated steps, and firmer steps.

Soon, who knows, you might even be running.

Do Something That Gives You Meaning

Often we feel dissatisfied with life because while we might have a good life — at least, all the comfort and leisure we need — we might not be doing anything that feels worthwhile. It might feel meaningless.

The cure: find meaning, do something meaningful. Just a few ways:

1. Spend time with loved ones. I love spending time with my family and friends and other loved ones. It gives me joy. It feels more meaningful than most other things I do (besides swimming, cycling and running, and maybe yoga). I recommend you take the time to do something with a loved one — just go for a walk, play a game together, have a conversation, it doesn’t matter what. Really be there — don’t be thinking of other things you need to do. Really listen. Really try to help the person if possible. It will make a difference in both your lives. Give without asking, listen without input.

2. Create something meaningful. Writing is something that is very meaningful to me. Any kind of creating — whether it be writing, drawing, playing music, designing, building something — can bring meaning to your life. You’re creating something new, expressing yourself, sharing it with others so that it may enrich their lives and the world in general. This is also one of the main reasons I love DJ’ing so much. Every 5 minutes you can blend two things for a unique experience, sound, and hopefully, see some unique moves on the dancefloor.

3. Make the lives of others better. Volunteering is just one way to accomplish this. But you could also think about your loved ones, your neighbors, others in the world around you, and think about how you can help them, make their lives better, even in a small way. That might mean baking them cookies, listening to them, cleaning for them, writing a kind letter, buying a nice gift, carrying their groceries (if you live in Sea Point where there are lots of old people), anything.

These are just a few ways, of course — there are lots of ways to do something meaningful. These have worked for me, but I’m sure you’ve found your own ways.

Have a great weekend people. Find contentment out there. Its waiting, just for you. Love, and light.

2 Comments on “Finding Contentment starts NOW

April 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Doesn’t being content mean accepting what is ? I always thought I should push on..Goafter what I wanted and not stopping until I got it

Urban Ninja
April 24, 2009 at 3:57 pm

…and how often do we chase what we “want” and get there only to find that its not that great, that we have neglected our friends, family & loved ones, and lose out on mental stimulation on the way? this leaves us uninspirable, lonely, etc…

going after what we want and NOT STOPPING TILL I HAVE IT DAMN IT often means going after small prizes which don’t make a difference anyway. which Hip Hop star will ever have the perfect diamond?

Lets put it this way – for me, the finish line, or the material object I have worked so hard towards, is never enough. There is always a newer, shinier version. It might be lighter, It might be skinnier. But it will never be enough. With sport, I am training towards a long term health, well into my old age, with some goals along the way, which keep me motivated, but the goal is long term wealth (& health).

Maybe not accepting what is, but being appreciative of what you have, and making the time to tell those around you that you love them as they are, for what they are able to give you.


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