Guiltless Contentment

By: Grace V. Planas

‘Have I stopped dreaming?’ ‘Why am I not as stressed?’ ‘Why am I not on the ‘move’ like most people of my age?’ Is something really amiss?’

Guilt in Contentment?

Is there really such a thing as guilt in feeling contented?

“Guilt may come from comparing your living conditions to others and not living up to your own standards. It arises from unreasonable demands on yourself especially when you fashion your life to someone else’s," wrote Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.IC.S.O. in Psycho Cybernetics.

Comparing yourself to others may also be an offshoot of the unreasonable demands, pressures or expectations coming from well meaning people around us.

And even if you are not in the habit of stealing glimpses in the lives of other people, you might just gradually do that to check on your progress.

Then you chide yourself for not pushing hard enough.

It is not your business to please or make an impact on anyone actually.

When you believe you have a balanced life, that you do your best in any circumstance you are in, and you hurt no one, not even yourself while experiencing this contentment bliss, it is enough reason to rejoice without feeling undervalued.

However, ‘balance’ seems not to be the general rule these days. You have to grab all opportunities even opportunities you are not seeing yet, to be on top and always competitive. Some call this having ‘foresight’ or ‘vision.’

And when you are not able to, you are perceived as indolent, lacking in drive or purpose, and worse, a failure.

But contentment is an elusive state of the mind and of the heart. It can be difficult to feel contented these days when there are too many options and opinions to contend with.

Although having possibilities is good, it can break one’s heart when making a choice becomes a dilemma and the cycle of changing one’s preferences and goals never ends.

You can end up more confused and never having achieved even your simplest dream, and seldom feeling glad if you achieve it at all, because you tell yourself: the ‘other’ might have been better, then ‘the other, or another.’ It is never perfect. It is never enough.

One misses to savor what is at hand.

It can leave you feeling exhausted, empty, and disoriented with your deep-rooted priorities.

The Placid Mind

Angelo was 40 years old when he was a Clerk in charge of office supplies for the medium sized company where I used to work. He was known for that pleasant aura, which spelled ‘contentment,’ which he wore for so many years until I resigned.

He came to work always with an infectious smile, as if everyday was a special day. When in truth and in fact, it was just another day with his inventory of inks, paper clips, and memo pads.

I can surmise he often found something beautiful in what he was doing.

He brought to work his home-cooked meals and related with pride how his wife prepared them religiously, while the rest of us always found something to whine about the nearby eatery.

He whistled and handled heavy reams of bond papers as if they were weightless, and delivered our requested items with grace while a co-worker was foaming invectives against what she called a mediocre job as the new Supervisor of the Treasury Section, where she was barely a few months old in her post.

But when Angelo heard the Company might close down, of course he was saddened however, he still reported for work with enthusiasm instead of cursing management or moping back home.

Living the Dream

What Angelo did not know was that I can’t help but notice his striking attitude about what I have always thought of as his redundant life in our workplace. Undoubtedly, his disposition left a lasting impression.

His seemingly mundane frame of mind could have sustained him through his highs and lows but it has in my eyes transformed into something extraordinarily hard to emulate, today or even back then.

Boring, insipid, unexceptional, run-of-the-mill, average, are but a few of the labels I was guilty of secretly branding him with. But he got my attention and he also got me thinking.

How can he wear cheers all over his face and have passion for a job that was so unchallenging?

I doubted its likelihood. But today, I understand him.

A Closer Look at Contentment

Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D., President, International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM) in ‘Simple Abundance and Rich Poverty: The Positive Psychology of Contentment’ described Pseudo and Genuine Contentment:

“Pseudo Contentment is transitory, dependent on external circumstances. It is based on instant gratification of desires or temporary escape from reality through defensive mechanisms, when desires are thwarted by circumstances.

GenuineContentment is enduring and transcendental. It can survive the vicissitude of life devastating traumas, because it comes from authentic living, a deep seated sense of meaning and purpose, an existential philosophy of life and an intimate knowledge of the sacred and divine…"

While discontentment can push you to achieve, it can also create stress and pressures you don’t really need to live a life that is full.

A caveat though, contentment, DOES NOT MEAN ‘getting stuck.’ It is NOT promoting lethargy or taking the ‘punches’ of life sitting down. It does not mean being free from worry.

Contentment can be synonymous to being at peace with yourself, having inner joy, being fulfilled or learning acceptance. Or it may include all the stated descriptions with slight variations in definitions.

It is knowing exactly where you are heading for; you just keep working at it quietly and sensibly, leading you closer to your genuine aspirations.

“A valuable part of contentment is to know what your core values and core skills are…and focus on enjoying using them. A part of your future upgrades will be remembering and utilizing your core values and core skills in new ways…but not losing sight of what is essential, valuable, and central." David Burnet, American Business and Life Designer and Spiritual Coach.

Contentment is reaching a higher level of knowing, understanding, and appreciating your daily tasks and feats, big or small.

It is aligning your dreams with your unique realities, eventually finding yourself in a life that is truly fitting.

You alone will know if you have done what needs to be done to be the person that God originally intended you to be in all aspects,

When someone disturbs and questions your state of contentment, and tells you not just yet, you may feel yourself fading away into insignificance.

Revisit the original goals residing in your heart; know thyself once more and you will find your answers.

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