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Contentment vs. Complacency

"...For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4:11 (NIV)

My life goals - 1... To serve God, 2... To serve others and 3.... To be content, no matter what. While all three take effort and intentionality, they work together to result in lots of smiles. Serving takes physical action and effort, being content requires an intentional awareness of the present. The combination of taking control of your actions and emotions can lead to big things.

Serving can be as simple as a gracious compliment to lift someone's spirits or letting someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store. But contentment is a little more abstract. For me, it is enjoying and being grateful for the blessings I have. It is not being bitter because I don't have something, but being joyful because my needs are met - abundantly. It is waking up each day and saying thank you for what God has provided. It is being grateful for the lessons I learn through challenges, even though they are, well, challenging. It is not linking my happiness to accomplishments or circumstances, but nurturing a sense of joy regardless of those things.

But, contentment is not to be confused with becoming complacent and stagnant. It is not an excuse to be lazy or lack ambition. Contentment is being happy where you are so that you can progress and achieve new goals with a healthy, purposeful spirit. When you are truly content, you can delight in life's journey and welcome new prospects.

A few things you can do to cultivate contentment:

  1. Don't get sucked into materialism. "Retail therapy" will only result in temporary happiness and "buyer's remorse" can cause more unhappiness. Things will not fulfill you and often the clutter they create leads to stress and frustration. Classify purchases by "needs" vs. "wants" and be aware of your motivation for purchase. Some of the most fulfilling things are not "things" but time with a friend, enjoying a view, or just a good cup of coffee in a quiet place. Enjoy the free stuff in life!

  2. Breathe and Be grateful. If you are unhappy or frustrated with someone or something, stop, take a deep breath and find something positive about the person or situation. There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. A "glass half-full" perspective may not be easy, but it is highly effective.

  3. Serve...God & Others. Selfishness breeds discontent. Focus on serving and appreciating others and you will be rewarded. Making others feel good through verbal compliments and thoughtful acts will bring a smile to your face as well.

Number three is the culmination of my three goals. I have learned that when I serve God and others, magically, I am more content, happier and fulfilled. Consequently, I am motivated to look for opportunities to grow and advance through the crazy adventures of life; to take on new challenges and not be discouraged by obstacles, but to relish the experience they provide.

Complacency can leave you stuck and apathetic, but contentment will bring drive and optimism. So make someone smile. That makes God smile...and you, you will smile. And you will find those smiles can bring contentment and motivation, inspiring you to do exciting things.

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