Posted: 18 May 2012 12:31 PM PDT
Post written by Leo Babauta.
There has been little in my life that has made as much an impact as learning to be content — with my life, where I am, what I’m doing, what I have, who I’m with, who I am.
This little trick changes everything.
Let’s take a look at my life before contentedness:
I was addicted to junk food and fast food, and overweight and unhealthy. I bought too many things on impulse, owned too much clutter, and was deeply in debt and struggling to make it to the next payday. I was unhappy with who I was, wanted desperately to change, tried a thousand different programs and books. I was always worried I was missing out on exciting things, and wanted so much to be out doing the fun things everyone else was doing. I was always changing the way I did things, because it seemed everyone else had a better system or tools. I strove to meet goals, because they would get me to a better life.
And as I learned to be content, here was what changed:
I learned to be happy with healthier food, with less food, and my health improved and waistline shrunk. I relied on a good book, spending time with people I loved, going for a nice run … and my debt began to be reduced as I learned I didn’t need to spend money to enjoy myself. I learned to be happier with who I was, and what I was doing, and so no longer needed self-improvement books and programs, no longer needed to try all kinds of new systems and tools. I became happy with myself, with those around me, and with what I had — and so didn’t need to strive to change everything. Letting go of goals helped me to simplify things so I had less to worry about, less to do.
That’s just the start. There is no way to account for the tremendous change that happens when you learn to accept who you are, when you tell yourself you are perfect just as you are, when you love yourself and everything about yourself. You stop criticizing yourself, you are happier, you are a better person to be around, and you can now help others and work without the insecurities you had before.
This is not a magical state, and doesn’t require any new tools or books. It’s simple, and I’ll share what has worked for me.
Learning to Be Content
If you are in a bad place in your life, and are unhappy with everything about it (job, relationship, yourself, house, habits, etc.), it can be a miserable thing. But here’s something interesting: it can also be a happy thing.
I’ve been in situations where you might think things were bad, and sometimes I was very unhappy, and other times I was happy. The difference wasn’t in the external circumstances, but in my mindset — I learned to appreciate what I had, instead of focusing on the things I didn’t have or didn’t like. I was grateful for my health, for the people in my life, for having food and being alive.
If you can learn to develop the right mindset, you can be happy now, without changing anything else. You don’t need to wait until you’ve changed everything and made your life perfect before you’re happy — you have everything you need to be happy right now.
The mindset of waiting for happiness is a never-ending cycle. You get a better job (yay!) and then immediately start thinking about what your next promotion will be. You get a nicer house and immediately start looking at how nice your neighbors’ houses are, or the faults in the house you have. You try to change your spouse or kids, and if that works (good luck), you’ll find other things about them that need to be changed. It keeps going, until you die.
Instead, learn that you can be content now, without any external changes. Here’s how to start:
The Contented Life
It might be useful to look at what life would be like if you learned to be content:
This is all just a few scratches on the surface of a contented life, but it gives you a picture of what might be. And the truth is, once you learn the simple trick of contentedness, it’s really a picture of what already is. You just need to let go of the fears, and see what is already here.
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