Topic: Contentment
Written By: Shelley Regan

Contentment.  It comes from the Latin word continere.  Container, contains, content, full, satisfied. It is a feeling of having enough. Contentment begins with satisfaction with who you are and where you are in your life.

In her book, Life Reimagined: The Science,  Art and Opportunity of Midlife, former NPR religion and law correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty shares compelling stories of how to live a life of purpose and meaning at midlife and beyond.  Hagerty’s research shows that generally one’s contentment, which dips in the mid-40’s, will often flourish in the 50’s and 60’s when one’s future happiness is often underestimated.

Wise people have said, “choose work that you enjoy and you will never have to work a day in your life.” So how do you find this elusive perfect career? There are keys in your childhood. What did you love to do? What activities did you become so completely engrossed in that you lost all track of time, and were “in the zone” or “flowing?” These moments of childhood contentment hold clues to your vocation.

If your son, daughter, grandchild, or other beloved young person in your life wrestles with discontent in their career path, remind them they can find clues to their vocation by looking back at childhood moments of play, exploration, and where they found themselves lost in wonder. Those sources of contentment hold clues to how they can experience a flourishing career and life.

In Adam Hamilton’s book Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity, he shares some keys to cultivating contentment.  One is to practice saying this phrase, “It could be worse.” The next time you walk into work and you are faced with gossip or hostility, tell yourself, “It could be worse.” Another key is to develop a grateful heart.  Research shows those who spend more time giving thanks for what we have than thinking about what’s missing or wrong in our lives.

When I’m stuck, frustrated, resentful, or in another less than desirable state of mind, I’ve found what helps the most is becoming mindful of goodness in my life. Contentedness flows again when I remember to give thanks for my health, the people in my circle of love, food, shelter, the opportunities to read, travel, learn, grow, and share.  And of course, the remarkable gift of being alive.

Contentment is not something that is achieved in one transformative moment. It must be discerned afresh every day of our lives. Even Paul didn’t wake up one day and decide to be content. He learned it, too. In Philippians 4:12-13 he wrote: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength."

Teach the children in your life this too; there are times when a little discontent can be a very good thing. We are created with a natural, healthy discontent that leads to the fullness of life. Remind them to celebrate discontent based in a longing to become your best and truest self, the person whom God created you to be, and to live and love others better. May they live into their discontentment with the injustices in the world and work for justice and healing.

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be content and to do good while they live.   That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  Ecclesiastes 3: 11-13

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