Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Obtaining Contentment

I present to you this question: Is being content an appropriate goal in life?

To explore this question, we have to delve a little into the meaning of the word "content".  The dictionary classifies content as "satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else".  True contentment in this sense is the utter and complete satisfaction in all that one has.  Let's set aside for the moment the immediate needs for survival such as food and shelter.  These type of needs will never be satisfied in that you will always need more of them.  So, let's look at it from a different lens; we'll examine the idea of being content through financial, material, and career aspirations.

The fact that you are not content is what got you to where you are in the first place.  If one were content in their position at work, they would most likely only put in a normal amount of effort and never really advance. Likewise, a content person financially, would never save or earn more than the inflation rate.  Finally, a content person would probably not buy anymore "things" other than what they current have and need to replace.  I would argue that even those who admit contentment are not truly content if they are saving for a future, striving to work hard at work, or purchase even some small material goods not necessary for survival.

So with that out of the way, let's look to see if being content is a good thing.  Moralistic, religious, and societal norms teach us that hubris or humility are admired and desired traits.  I do believe this as well, as these are the chief modes of obtaining true happiness.  Being content means that you have achieved every one of your lifetime goals and you are currently coasting through life.  Generally speaking, this should be a good thing, however I would argue that pure contentment would drive a person into depression as they no longer have any life goals.  These goals don't need to be extravagant; may something as simple as dropping your swing count a few points your next game of golf.  Instead of pure contentment which is some sort of idealized fictional state, I suggest a more realistic hybrid lifestyle.

You need to set goals for yourself and obtain them.

If you are trying to obtain financial independence, or achieve a certain position at your employment  then you are not content with your life and that's OK.  If everyone were content at a certain point, many great things would not be achieved in this world.  The risk comes when you let obsession and greed take hold of you and your goals get ever further reaching.  You should know personally what your career, financial, and material goals are.  Maybe, you would like to be in your dream position, or maybe you are trying to achieve $1 million to retire, or maybe you've always dreamed of owning your own pool.  Whatever it is, set a goal, and achieve it.  It's OK to set future goals, but realize that you have achieved your lifetime goal and now are in a state of relative contentment.  With that in mind, focus on the things that make you happy and dedicate your life to a cause.

Wonderful Moment of the Day: Having an avenue to record my philosophical ramblings.

1 comment:

  1. It's definitely somewhat paradoxical that you need discipline and motivation to achieve "early retirement", a place where many people imagine having to do nothing. I suspect that's why we don't see many full early retirees, they just have shifted to another cause that's not motivated by money.