👋 I’m Nathan

Notes on Contentment

Recently, I’ve been concerned about how non-contented I am and how selfishly I act. I’ve been angry and entitled and it’s not something I enjoy. People fall out of love and similarly they fall into discontent. The choice is to work toward contentedness or toward anger, greed, or any number of alternate paths. Being content does not mean one is satisfied, but instead that one is not unhappy in the presence of unsatisfying circumstances.

“I’m not “happy” but I’m not unhappy about it.”
― Alan Bennett, The History Boys

A content artist is not one who has created all they ever will, but one that is creating as much as necessary. Being content does not mean a person is complacent or indifferent. Contentedness will breed progress or support to perpetuate itself and prevent complacency. Mediocrity will never grow contentedness.

Similarly, contentedness is not earned. Only through the removal of dissatisfaction and other poisonous feelings can one be content; not from adding extra income, extra time, etc. Unreachable goals are poison to a person’s contentment. Yet, even the goal of being content is unreachable without true internal change — so the goal itself can be just as preventative as wishing for infinite wealth or other unattainable (and unnecessary) things. I’ve been stressing about this mentally for a while now.

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
― Socrates

Talking to a friend, he reminded me that gratitude is the secret to true contentment. Just as contentment must be practiced or lost, it’s clear that gratitude also must be practiced or forgotten. So I intend to practice: I will write once a day about what I am grateful for. In searching for contentment I’ve found gratitude instead. It’s probable one will cause the other.

I’m not looking for happiness, that will come and go on its own. Anyway, there is a direct correlation to a person’s extraversion to their happiness: the more extraverted a person behaves the happier they tend to be. Neuroticism correlates as well, except in reverse. I am not extraverted.

I’m also not really looking for ways to rationalize or “know more” or become enlightened. Unlike enlightenment, there is no level of ascension that provides contentment directly. Enlightenment is attained whereas contentment is worked through.

Every night I will compile a list of the things I am thankful for with no other goal than to relearn gratitude. You’re welcome to try too.