“Contentment is the only real wealth.” ~Alfred Nobel
Today I experienced contentment. It felt more like relief than revelation. There was no epiphany ringing a bell in my head, rather it was a peaceful ease that held me in warm satisfaction. It is just felt like I had enough, actually more than enough and I didn’t search for feeling grateful, it just was. Today, it was easy to do as Epicurus, the Greek philosopher said thousands of years ago: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Contentment gets a bad rap as a kind of moral laziness. Somewhere, especially in our American culture driven by success and material wealth the experience of contentment was placed in opposition to ambition or personal drive. Henry Ward Beecher’s comment: “We are not to make the ideas of contentment and aspiration quarrel, for God made them fast friends. A man may aspire, and yet be quite content until it is time to raise; and both flying and resting are parts of one contentment.”
The trick is finding the balance between the urge to grow with the need to rest. It is not in our human ambition to better ourselves that competes with our ability to feel content, it is the trappings of ambition, what it looks like, that keeps us from wanting what we have and drives us to have what we want. I have my fair share of that ego, urging me on most days, with the idea of scale and business growth ever biting at my heels.
What was most surprising about feeling content today was that I didn’t look for it, it found me when I stopped looking for anything out there to fill me up. I am not sure of my skill at creating the experience again but I think that the gratitude journal may be working, filling me up in ways that I didn’t even expect.
Here is a fine list by Johann Wolgang von Goethe to aspire to for a contented life. It might be worth posting by the bed.
Nine Requisites for Contented Living:
1. Health enough to make work a pleasure.
2. Wealth enough to support your needs.
3. Strength to battle with difficulties and overcome them.
4. Grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them.
5. Patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished.
6. Charity enough to see some good in your neighbor.
7. Love enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others.
8. Faith enough to make real the things of God.
9. Hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future.
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