“Until you make peace with who you are, you will never be content with what you have.” ~Doris Mortman
Every day I chat with a friend and he always asks, “How are you?” This isn’t the superficial greeting we often give to an acquaintance in passing. He really wants to know, and I usually oblige with an honest snapshot of how my life is at the moment.
I began to notice that my answers contained words like “quiet,” “peaceful,” and “content.” Could this be the elusive happiness that I spend so much energy and time to achieve? And could it have settled subtly on my shoulder like a shy butterfly while I was busy with my life?
I am constantly reading and analyzing how I can make my short time on earth better. In general, life is good. But like many people, I often fall into the trap of trying to do too much, be too much, and painstakingly pick myself apart for being human.
I took some time to reflect what changes I had made over the last few months that would have opened me to a feeling of pure contentment. By contentment, I simply mean I feel fine and secure with what I have, what I am, and where I am going right at this moment. I know things can change, but I feel now is perfect.
Here are the five things I identified that led me to find a harmony within, however fleeting.
1. Show humility.
I live in Florida, where the housing market is especially broken. The loss of tourism, the NASA space program, and other economic hardships here have caused many friends to lose their homes to foreclosure. I am reminded everyday to be grateful for things such as a house I love and the ability to share with my children.
When I sweep my floors, I think, “I feel thankful to have what I have and the joy to taking care of it.” It sounds funny, but many boring household chores are what others would wish for. These chores are a service to my family and a healthy dose of humbleness for my soul.
2. Recognize enough.
With practice, and gentle reminders from those I respect, I have finally accepted my true life is happening right now. I celebrate the accomplishments and good things as they happen and avoid looking ahead too far for more of the same.
Going slowly and enjoying the journey is “life.” Rushing the moment can take such fun out of the anticipation. Expectations can lead to disappointment, but accepting what I have been given now is contentment.
If right now is painful for you, try thinking, “I’m growing,” instead of “I’m hurting.” It’s pain and discomfort that causes us to move. Sometimes the move is necessary and beneficial overall.
I repeat the mantra “I have what I need” often to remind me that now is not just enough, but a blessing.
3. Simplify life.
Give up what you don’t need and be glad you did. So many things can fall into this category. Material things take space and energy to maintain. Toxic relationships tax our positivism and peacefulness. Worry and despair over things we cannot change rob our sense of well being.
Very few things in life are a real crisis. Those that are cannot be solved by worry but by deliberate and thoughtful actions. Take decisive action to cut out the things that complicate and thus rob you of true contentment.
I’ve begun to clear whole days on my calendar of planned events. These are free days that I can spend with my family spontaneously.
4. Have real fun.
I went to Las Vegas once and really wanted to try a live poker tournament. I chickened out and instead watched a friend try it. It is something I still wish I had pushed myself to do.
Is a card game a life or death situation? No. But I should have allowed myself the fun, and if the chance arises again, I’m on it! Respect your boundaries, but be open to experiences and challenges that offer a sense of peace.
5. Make room for quiet.
Whether you pray, meditate, listen to nature, or even just be, allow yourself to hear what’s in your heart. Connecting with what is inside better prepares you to deal with the exterior world with calmness and peace. Give up control and release yourself to thoughts and emotions that can heal, strengthen, and even surprise you.
Your inner voice often has something to say. You can best recognize that gut feeling that can act as a reliable compass once you turn off all the noisy, messy distracting sounds of life. I describe it as being “plugged in” to the positivity around me.
I am not all calmness and peace all the time. I have a full and often chaotic life with children and a job. But, with a few mindful adjustments, I have found a season of contentment, and for that my thankfulness abounds!