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Post No.: 0641contentment

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Contentment is the true overall furry goal in life, not the pursuit of happiness per se. Contentment needs no external input and is sourced primarily and sustainably from within, whereas happiness often requires external input because it’s often a reaction to the state of the outside world or of what’s happening to oneself. This or that thing can make us feel happy or sad, etc. but contentment is saying, “I’m content with whatever has happened or with whatever I’ve got.”

 

Contentment is therefore always much more within our own control. It isn’t dependent on the things that happen to us from outside sources like money or adoration, which aren’t always in our control. Contentment thus gives us perspective and stability.

 

It’s good to have goals and ambitions, but attachments to happiness contingencies such as, “I need £x in my bank account before I’m satisfied” or, “I must be married and settled by the age of y otherwise I’ll be miserable” can be unhealthy because they create dependencies that aren’t completely in our own paws.

 

It’s also saying that you don’t deserve to feel happy right now. It’s saying that you can only be happy if you reach those goals. And even if you do, the goalposts can constantly move or new extrinsic targets get set, hence contentment is always elusive with this kind of attitude to life where you’re always endlessly coveting and chasing something no matter how much you already have. It implies that self-acceptance and self-compassion are things to be put on hold.

 

So take some time to reflect on any such happiness contingencies you have, keep only the ones that are worthwhile and realistic, and take note of how much you have that’s good in your life already. This’ll empower you to take ownership of your own well-being instead of depending on other people and external factors that are mostly out of your command.

 

With contentment, you can begin to feel whole, complete and unconditionally accepting of yourself right now. You can still pursue your ambitions but you can also feel content today too. Practising mindfulness and being mentally in the present can also improve your contentment because contentment is about your state right now. Accept every type of emotion, pleasant or unpleasant, when they arise, for understanding that they all evolved for a reason – to guide us. It’s absolutely normal to not feel okay sometimes. Woof!

 

A key to contentment is accepting and appreciating all of life’s varied experiences, whether joyful or tough, peaceful or frustrating, merry or embarrassing, and everything inbetween. Appreciate the little things, the little wins and treasurable moments. Wisdom is the gaining of the knowledge of enough, the acceptance of the present moment, the need for nothing more than what’s here right now as it is. It’s the acceptance of what it means to be human (or whatever animal you are), an unconditional love for all of life’s experiences, and the idea that right here, right now, everything is probably fine.

 

There’ll logically be fewer reasons to be gloomy, to steal or be unkind when life is good for you compared to if you’re impecunious. It’s not just down to people’s individual personalities but their circumstances. Yet most people with plenty don’t realise how much they’ve got because they’re continually comparing themselves to those who have even more. The pursuit is therefore endless until we start to compare ourselves to those who have a lot less than us.

 

Desire can drive us to pursue something, but contentment is the state of desirelessness. Desire is the state of discontentment – of wanting something one doesn’t have. No one scratches behind their ears unless there’s an itch – we want that itch gone i.e. we ultimately want that desire to stop. We want to ultimately reach a state of wanting nothing more. So it’s a state we all ultimately seek, and it’s mostly, if not completely, a state of mind when it comes to money or material wealth once we can securely meet our basic physical needs like having enough food to eat.

 

No one ‘needs’ or ‘wants’ anything unless they feel they lack it. Someone who is highly motivated to seek pain-relief or water to drink, and will work hard to get it, only reveals that they are in pain or are thirsty and want that feeling gone. Air is vitally important – more than probably anything else physically – but the desire for oxygen to breathe seldom comes to mind because few people feel they lack it. This serves to demonstrate clearly how even very crucial and important things can be taken for granted, leading us to see the negative, rather than the many positive, things in our lives. Not everybody finds it easy to breathe (e.g. those with emphysema) so those who don’t struggle should never ever take a single breath for granted.

 

It’s similar with any economic or material resource. But of course not all motivations are misdirected. The point is that desire is essentially about trying to overcome some feeling of insecurity – whether a true survival ‘need’ (which is fur enough) or merely a ‘want’ (which isn’t always fine, especially if unrestrained and limitless). We must make the distinction between true needs and mere wants.

 

So ensure that your desires are not unlimited, unsustainable, unrealistic or constantly escalating otherwise you’ll never ever be content. Desire is the gap between where one is and where one wants to be i.e. desire is the opposite of being at peace. It’s an insecurity – a perceived deficit in one’s life from one’s own personal perspective. It’s also about relative social comparisons, but there’s highly probabilistically going to always be at least one person in the world who’s got more than you, as levels of desire ratchet up and up incessantly – when we compare to those who have just a little bit more than us every time we get a little bit more ourselves, rather than to those who have a little less, or even far less, than us. Those who only look with envy at those who have more rather than consider those who have less than them, are never happy or content with what they’ve got even though they could be incredibly lucky, hence greed and selfishness have no bounds. Well this could still potentially be true even for the richest person in the world because there’s always more that one could personally have that one doesn’t. True physical needs have limits. Luxuries don’t.

 

Populations progressively having more stuff to buy and own over time hasn’t resulted in populations progressively feeling happier over time. In fact, the more commercial stuff there is out there, the more stuff we realise we don’t have, and this can play on our discontentment. We start to count what we don’t have instead of what we do, especially compared to others.

 

And things that make us happy might make us not want to accept anything less in the future. We won’t want to lose what we’ve got once we’ve gotten used to what’s pleasurable. We might in fact think that only the same or more will feel merely adequate due to the hedonic treadmill effect. But gratefulness is different – we might accept something less if we’re grateful because we know we’ve been fortunate. This is relevant in a finite-resource world where we cannot keep wanting more in a self-centred way. So contentment and gratitude are what we really want and need in life.

 

Forgiveness is a state of contentment too – the state of desirelessness for revenge. That’s why forgiving others is in large part to serve our own inner peace.

 

So contentment is the goal, not getting rich – just like feeling satisfied in the tummy is the goal, not eating as much as possible. The goal with food certainly isn’t to constantly think about being hungry! And so the goal with money isn’t to constantly think about wanting more either. You’re probably relatively rich already anyway because you’re richer than most people in history since they didn’t have electricity in their homes, or personal computers in their pockets that now have way more computing power than all of NASA had when they first sent astronauts to the Moon! It’s a matter of perspective. Yet most people in the ‘developed’ world still wish they had ‘just a little bit more’ before they consider themselves happy. But simply thinking about desiring more material wealth or yearning to look prettier all of the time, for instance, makes people feel insecure, which precisely contributes to their unhappiness.

 

Some things we covet won’t make us happy for as long a duration as we hope for if we get them anyhow, hence chasing them is maladaptive. It’s not to say that millionaires are all unhappy – they definitely are happier compared to those living in poverty across the world. (Post No.: 0453 had more on this.) Having material wealth is one thing but ceaselessly and boundlessly craving and chasing it is another. People can chase more money, then get stressed and ill from the pursuit, then spend money to try to get better from this stress and illness(!) That’s time lost too. The net outcome isn’t just about what you earn but also how much you spend. So you can be just as fine if you earn less but spend less. Except time is something we cannot regain once we’ve spent it. When we blindly chase numbers, it’s frequently money (or its proxies) instead of the things we really want to achieve like contentment and health – even when they’re supposedly pursued in service of greater contentment and health. Money-rich but time-poor and stressed-out people are less happy than they could be. We need to balance our pursuits with other important things in life that affect our happiness and life satisfaction, such as our mental and physical health, and family and social life.

 

Overall, discontentment can motivate us, and indeed there are things that are worth seeking change for in this world and about oneself – we don’t have to accept social injustices from society or mediocre performances from ourselves. We can change the world for the better. We can improve our education. We can dream and work hard towards these dreams. But one must prioritise these worthwhile desires and understand that the ultimate goal in life is the state of contentment, not desire, and that contentment is a choice because we choose the requirements for it. The content person is the true winner in life. Successful people are content and want for nothing more. Contentment means you’ve arrived. The winners in life are those who reach their state of contentment – free from any further desire. Those who aren’t there are those who still desire, still itch – even though they’re bleeding from all the scratching, metaphorically speaking.

 

We therefore cannot say whether someone else has won or not in their own life because there is no objective metric (in amount of money or fame for example) – only they can know or feel it themselves i.e. if you try to judge someone else’s success in life then you’ll really only reveal the truth about your own desires, insecurities and subjective measures of success. Your judgements will only speak the truth about you and others like you, not about everybody in the world. And when we compare to those who have far less than us, it’s tasteless to gloat against those who are starving and struggling to physically survive, so we should express compassion for them. For those who have less than us but are doing fine – who are we to say they’re not content?

 

So be at the destination where everybody really wants to be at the end of hunting all of their personal desires – contentment. You’re probably already where the grass is green enough. Be at the place where you don’t wish to be anyone else… because you’re happy being yourself :).

 

Woof!

 

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