contentment in minimalism and simplicity

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

While discontent is something that can eat away at our hearts, contentment can make life more happy and a lot more simple. There are so many opportunities to practice contentment in our lives and calm our hearts. We can learn to be content both in who we are, and what we have.

1. Contentment in who we are.

When I was in university I took a child psychology course. I remember one class where we discussed a study of parents’ views of their children. According to the study discussed, 80% of parents think that their child is above average. Yup, you read that right. It makes no sense. Well, it makes sense that every parent thinks their child is exceptional. But being exceptional has nothing to do with being ‘above average’ in any given category.

I recently found a TEDTalk by Jeroen van Barr; who, by the way, is from Amsterdam! I first watched this video while I was actually living in Amsterdam for 3 weeks. I’ll link the talk below if you are interested. He talks about how ‘average is awesome’ and how we need to take back the right to be average. It’s okay to be ‘just okay’ at something.

Unrelenting standards can be a huge emotional drain, time suck, and cause for discontent. And it’s good to stop and reign this in. Being aware of these unspoken ‘standards’ is the most important thing. First of all, do other people place them on you, or have you come to place them on yourself?

Striving for more.

Whatever it is you’re striving for… why are you scrambling so hard to get it? Does it involve money, status, appearance or intelligence? Is it popularity, more things, or ‘to be the best’ at something? Think about what standards you place on yourself and reflect on why they are present. If there is an unrelenting standard that weighs you down, maybe it’s time to give yourself permission to let go.

More importantly, if you expect the achievements themselves to make you happy, you will end up being disappointed. Therefore we need to try and rid ourselves of the fear of not being exceptional. Not everything we do will be exceptional, so this will make us appreciate the things that are.

2. Contentment in what we have.

We are bombarded by advertising and have so many choices available to us. There are so many products to choose from in grocery stores, so many places to on-line shop, and so many people’s opinions and reviews about which things are the best. In fact, we have so many choices that we have choice overload.

The reason why this affects us negatively is because it trains us to want more, to want better, and therefore it takes more and more and more to be equally happy. When there is a case of choice overload, we start to wonder if maybe the next best thing really will make us happier. We start down the slippery slope of comparison; not just in the store aisle, but comparison with our neighbour, with the brand name of our clothes, the size of our house, or the number of nice things we own. We strive for more even though happiness can’t be found in things.

Maximize vs. Satisfy.

Jeroen describes how when we are faced with so many options, there are 2 type of decision makers that emerge: ‘Maximizers’ and ‘Satisfisers’.

  1. Maximizing means to take all of the options and compare every single one to pick the best one.
  2. Satisfising means to look until finding one that is good enough; it is over a certain threshold of quality.

Our consumerist society has embraced a ‘maximizing’ mindset and attitude, and this is exactly what makes it difficult to be happy with what we have. If we aren’t careful it can cause us to be unreasonably dissatisfied even when what we have is over the ‘threshold of quality’ and meets all our needs.

Contrary to what most people might think, it has been proven that the satisfisers always feel better and are happier about the things they’ve chosen. How can this be if they had less choice? Satisfisers know when to stop clamouring and be content. If we can’t learn how to be content now, we will never be truly content.

3. Embracing Contentment.

Contentment can be defined as ease of mind. I love the verse in the first epistle of Paul to Timothy where he says that “of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” (1 Tim 6:6) In other words, you can’t take this stuff with you!

In a world that seems to tell us that ‘more is better’, let’s embrace happiness and contentment. Less Stuff. More Life.

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