I was looking back through my 2015 planner yesterday, remembering all the things I learned, accomplished, and experienced over the past year. That’s one of the things I love about a paper planner – it is sort of like a planner and a journal all wrapped in one. About a year ago, I narrowed down my Word of the Year for 2015 to Contentment. And looking back through my planner, I realized just how far I’ve come. Lots of lessons in contentment were learned this year, and I actually, genuinely feel more at peace. More content.
If you’ve never done or heard of a “Word of the Year”, I strongly encourage you to give it a try! It is a great alternative to setting New Year’s resolutions. Basically, this word is your theme or focus throughout the year. Instead of setting specific resolutions, which many of us tend to NOT keep, you use your Word to help guide you throughout the year to make decisions that align with your desires in life.
I was feeling pretty heavy about this time last year and after a little soul-searching, I figured out that what I was really lacking (and craving) was contentment. That general feeling of peace and happiness with your life. So rather than hurriedly spitting out some lofty (or easy) resolutions related to contentment, I decided to make it my theme for the year.
That theme came into play in so many aspects of my life – from deciding when and how much to volunteer, how much work to take on in my consulting business, and how to spend my free time with the kids, to how I plan and cook dinner, how I spend my “me time”, and when/where/how to spend money. It guided my decisions – big and small – throughout the year.
Reflections on Cultivating Contentment
So, like I mentioned, I learned a bit about what contentment means for me and how to actually become a more content person. These are some of my thoughts. Of course, this all applies to myself and my own experience. Your’s may be completely different. Either way, I hope this helps you to feel inspired to create and foster your own contentment.
You have to make room for contentment.
I think often times feelings of discontent stem from a cluttered life. And I don’t just mean physical clutter. I’m talking about a life full of the unnecessary. That was true for me. I found that in order for me to start on my journey to a more content life, I needed to shed the unnecessary.
I’m not talking about going full-on minimalist. I’m honestly not sure that is something I would ever strive for. It just doesn’t seem to fit my personality or needs for happiness. And I’m not even talking about paring down to only the things that are necessary for survival.
I’m talking about shedding things that are unnecessary to your survival AND your happiness. For me, that meant shedding a TON of obligations. For someone else, it might mean shedding certain people from your life. Or shedding your free time of activities that don’t contribute to your happiness, like hate-watching TV shows or Facebook-stalking your frenemies. And it could simply mean shedding your home and workspace of unnecessary physical clutter.
Learn what makes you happy.
Knowing what makes you happy is a huge part of learning to be more content. And figuring it out could be harder than you think. This was something I learned from reading The Happiness Project. It is easy to fall into the trap of identifying what you think should make you happy, rather than what truly makes you happy.
For example, you might like the idea of being the type of person who has a deep appreciation for fine art, but in reality, visiting art museums is incredibly boring to you. Or perhaps you wish you were the type of person who loved hike in nature, but in reality, you hate sweating and hate bugs.
On the flip side, it is also easy to deny those things that add to your happiness, but that you feel guilty for. Maybe you really like watching TV, but you feel like you shouldn’t (that’s me!).
Finding, creating, and fostering true contentment means figuring out who you are and what makes you tick. A few of the things I figured out truly add to my overall feeling of happiness (and therefore, contentment) include reading enjoyable books, being creative, watching truly entertaining TV and movies, getting enough sleep, feelings of accomplishment, and spending quality time with my family (Quality Time is my Love Language). And in order to fit those things into my life, I have to intentionally make time for them (hence my first point).
Contentment is ongoing work.
Contentment isn’t a destination, it is the journey itself. Contentment takes ongoing effort and intention. It is HARD to not feel inadequate or like you don’t have enough in our fast-paced consumer driven society. Spend half an hour on Pinterest and you might feel like your home needs a major makeover and like you need to go to culinary school just to get a decent dinner on the table. Spend any time at all with entertainment media and you might feel like your wardrobe is completely unstylish and you need to lose about a hundred pounds.
You MIGHT feel that way… If you allow it. It takes work to look within and know that you are enough, you do enough, and you have enough. The good news? It gets easier with time and practice. And remember, contentment doesn’t mean you don’t desire and strive for better. It just means that you allow yourself to be happy along the way.
Looking for more contentment inspiration? Follow my The Contentment Project board on Pinterest! You find blog posts and articles from all around the blog-o-sphere to help you on your way!
Follow Laura @ Little Bits of Granola’s board The Contentment Project on Pinterest.