“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” — Lao Tzu
I have the uncanny ability to simultaneously gaze off into the distant horizon and stare into my rear-view mirror, analyzing where I’ve been and plotting out where I hope to go. While both are useful, lingering in the past and drifting into the future remove me from the present moment. This lack of focus on the here and the now often manifests as dissatisfaction. I’m not as fit as I was this time last year, and perhaps not the best friend I could be. There is an overwhelming desire to improve myself and my life.
While I fully believe that it’s important for us to pursue meaning, fulfillment, and personal growth, I have to admit that this often leads to a lot of striving and a disproportionate amount of dissatisfaction. And this is exactly what we don’t want on our journey to our authentic, best selves.
Your curvy body, embarrassing nail-biting habit, and dead-end job don’t define you and can’t stop you from experience contentment. You’re already good enough, you already have more than enough, and you’re already perfect.
Try saying that to yourself and see how you feel. Does it resonate as something you already believe, or does it not feel right? Do you feel like there are at least a dozen things that you still need to improve?
I have slowly figured out that when you learn to be content with who you are and where you are in life, it changes everything.
Learning to find contentment means that you no longer feel dissatisfied with yourself and your life, nor do you spend your time and energy chasing your desired changes. Contentment removes the need to compare yourself others, and allows you to be happy no matter what is going on around you. When you develop a sense of contentment, you can focus your energy on helping others, rather than improving yourself. Finally, you could save a lot of money if you no longer feel the need for all the things that will supposedly improve your life: designer jeans, botox treatments, and the biggest TV in the store.
Have you ever traveled to a third-world country or talked to hobo on the side of the road. Despite owning little more than the clothes on their backs, most share an infectious smile. Here’s the thing: You already have everything you need to be happy, right here and right now.
If you have eyes that see, you have the ability to appreciate the beauty of rainbow filling the sky, loved ones’ faces, and the rhythmic flow of the rolling tide. If you have ears that hear, you have the ability to appreciate your favorite song and the sound of a child laughing. With a sense of touch, you have the ability to appreciate the smooth feel of silk and cold grass against your bare feet. In every moment of every day, you have the tools to find contentment.
Our ability to experience the world around us is a miracle, and one that we often take for granted. We lust after cooler gadgets, trendier clothes, flatter stomachs, bigger homes, more luxurious cars, and perfect partners. We want the biggest, newest, and best of everything. Yet, the objects of our striving are generally based on someone else’s idea of what “perfect” is.
What many people fail to realize is that we don’t need any of that extraneous stuff. We don’t need to improve our lives or ourselves, because we are already perfect. And once you truly believe this, you will be free.
When you understand that your situation is already perfect, this allows you to do things that you enjoy, rather than exerting effort into tasks that will make you better. This overwhelming sense of contentment will open up the floodgates of passion and joy. And when you cultivate the ability to find joy in the mundane and rejoice in the way things are, you will surely find that the whole world belongs to you.