I so wish I could sit and have a good heart-to-heart with my 20-something self! There are many things I could say. But one of the BIG things I would tell “me” is – change doesn’t necessarily bring happiness, more often than not it WON’T. If you can’t learn to be content in your current circumstances…you will NEVER know contentment, REGARDLESS of change, no matter how awesome it is. This is why some of the richest, most famous people are the most miserable. Being happy is not a matter of what we have or what we do. It’s about the condition of our heart.
The way our life is right now, at this very moment, is NOT what is keeping us from happiness! Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that we be fatalistic about life, never trying to grow or improve in our circumstances. And certainly, I am not talking about addiction or any form of abuse. BUT, if we aren’t grateful in this life, in our current circumstance, difficult ones even, we will NEVER be happy! A different home, a better body, finding a spouse, having kids, a different job, or more money will not and can not fulfill us.
I spent my early 20’s thinking if and when certain things happened, THEN my life would be complete and I would be really happy. Many of those things happened for me. I married the love of my life, who is about one of the most caring and adoring spouses out there. I had 2 sweet baby girls and was fortunate enough to have the option to stay at home with them (something I personally desired). Also, a debilitating health issue, something I was certain was the biggest barrier to my happiness, disappeared right after becoming pregnant with my first baby. My life was shaping up to be all I had hoped for and yet…I still felt discontented almost daily.
There are no perfect set of life circumstances.
I loved my husband and two girls dearly, but family life brought new challenges. No longer did I have the free time I did in years-gone-by and taking care of small children can be draining, physically and emotionally. I often felt anxious, or dwelt on the difficult aspects of my life. And we all have them regardless of our life circumstances… single, married/in relationship, divorced, or working, in college, retired, or with children, or childless. There is no perfect set of life circumstances. There is no perfect life.
This is something I knew in my head, but it hadn’t traveled down to my heart. I kept entertaining little thoughts like, “once we are able to buy a house and move out of this apartment, life will be a lot easier”. Or, “once the baby is sleeping all night, or is past the terrible 2’s, things will be better”. Or, “If only I didn’t have this part-time job from home, while caring for kids, then I could keep up with the house better, and I would be happier”. There was always SOMETHING in life that I felt needed to change for me to be completely happy. Little did I realize that the something was me. That something was the way I approached life.
We can be at peace and content even when life doesn’t go as expected.
Right now, as I type this, my house is a mess because of our recent trip, both of my girls have the flu, we are sad because my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I am experiencing a relationship-crisis (thankfully not with family!), along with the day-to-day stress of managing an auto-immune disease and homeschooling and running a house. In the past any two of those things, sometimes just one of them, would have been enough to send me into an emotional tail-spin of stress and discontentment. But you know what? Miracle of miracles, I actually feel at peace right now in the midst of a “storm”.
Of course, I have deep concern for my amazing dad and I’d rather my house be clean than a mess and I want my girls to feel well and I always prefer people liking me to being angry with me. But, for whatever reason, these circumstances were meant for me and I can be at peace knowing that. Here is the amazing thing! When we accept life with contentment, we can have peace, joy even, when things aren’t going our way.
I got an amazing life, without anything changing, by learning to be content.
Sadly, it took me many years to learn the secret of contentment. It’s one of those things, like gratitude, I had heard about in church, but for whatever reason, I had not put it completely into practice. It wasn’t something I had embraced with my heart. BUT, oh my goodness! Once I began to practice contentment, really practice it, my whole PERSPECTIVE on life changed. My life was basically the same, but my heart was no longer in self-bondage. I was FINALLY free to enjoy the life I was living. When I released this unhealthy “if only____, I will be happy” thinking, I was able to actually feel peace with life as it was.
Here are 6 things that have helped me be content and changed my life for the better!
Practicing contentment has changed my life. But it hasn’t been without effort. Here are some of the things I do to help foster contentment in my life.
1.) Be thankful DAILY (Practice Gratitude. For me that mostly takes the form of prayer.)
2.) Refuse to compare myself and my life with other people and their life (Envy is contentment’s greatest enemy!)
3.) Stay healthy (This may seem like a strange one, but getting adequate sleep, exercise, eating healthy, and taking time outdoors will make or break our ability to practice contentment.)
4.) Focus and meditate on positive things (It takes effort and intentionality to break bad thought patterns and build good ones into our life.)
5.) Be genuinely happy for the good things that happen to others (This one goes a step further than #2, and has been an amazing way to combat the contentment-killer, jealousy, in my life.)
6.) Live in the moment (Being completely present and really trying to enjoy every moment of this gift called life is an amazing way to live. THIS has been especially good for me to practice as a parent interacting with my girls.)
I hope this post was helpful and meaningful for you! I would love to hear how you have, or plan to, practice contentment in your own life.