Being Content vs. Striving to Improve - Why We Need Both

Most people want to live as happily as they can. They want to get the most out of life because they realize that our time is finite and short. And because of that, we better do what’s right.

But there are certain ideas that can confound us as we search for happiness. One of which is the concept of contentment versus improvement.

There is an often-stated maxim that says to be happy is to be content. And I would bet that you’ve heard this mentioned more than a few times before. Maybe it was told to someone who’s trying to do too much but still can’t find satisfaction. Or to overachievers who can’t seem to get enough of what they want in life and therefore always need to have just a little bit more.

On the other hand, there is also a totally contrarian view that can be found in the heap of self-help books available today. This philosophy is based on the premise of self-improvement. People are being goaded to continually strive for betterment. To not be satisfied with what they’ve got but to aspire and work for something better.

From the looks of it, contentment and improvement are two diametrically opposed ideas. But are they really? Which one should we really be giving serious thought to? Is one better than the other?

To be sure, both of these ideas deserve merit. We do need to be content and almost certainly have to strive for improvement as well if we want to be happy.

Experience With Contentment

In my long struggle to wean myself of materialism, I have come to a realization that I can be content with what I have. Mainly, I argue that I shouldn’t make the acquisition of stuff the source of my happiness. There are countless studies showing that a new toy or gadget or whatever material things bring temporary happiness for an average of three months only.

Although, getting good quality products is also important as long as those products fulfill a need. Buying the best home or the best quality car I can afford is prudent in my book. These are things that I need. I don’t buy them out of envy or vanity.

But to be driven to accumulate just for the great feeling it gives temporarily is a sign of misplaced discontent. And the never-ending quest to have more money and acquire more stuff would not address the underlying problem of unfulfillment.

It shouldn’t be the driving force of your determination to succeed. It may be a manifestation of accomplishment for some people who engage in business, but it ought not to be the cause of your life. It shouldn’t be the sole purpose of why you do what you do.

Rooms For Improvement

On the other hand, I continue to strive to be a better father, lover, son, brother, friend and fellow human being. I think that there is no shortage of areas to improve on when relationships are involved. And because we are social creatures, our happiness depends on the quality of our relationships.

I tend to be a quiet person but I try to talk more often because that’s how relationships are started and strengthened. I don’t really like going to parties and celebrations with a lot of people but I make the effort to show I care. I spend too much time at work but I also try to make time for my family and strive to give them priority.

These are some of the areas that I have to improve on. These are areas where I believe I can do something. Where I choose to do something. I am not content with just accepting who I am all the time. I needed to go out of my comfort zone to get better. It’s not easy and I’d rather not do it, but I still choose to do it because it’s the right thing to do.

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