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The Need for Contentment


Explanations > Needs > The Need for Contentment

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To be content, happy with what we have. To lose the constant tension of desire. To be happy in our own skin, not being envious, jealous or wanting to be like other people.


 A person has succeeded in life in the wealth they have gained, yet they do not feel happy. They retire to the country and spend much time gardening. Their friends are baffled by their abandoning the pursuit of more wealth, which is surely well within their grasp. Yet they find more happiness than they did in business simply in digging over a plot of land.

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In our capitalist, consumerist culture, we are constantly bombarded with adverts, marketing and social pressures to always want more. When we get what we crave, we are happy for a while, until we find that we want more. The consuming life is one of always wanting more, and want is a form of tension that mars our life with discomfort. And when we have all we could have, we worry about losing it. We do the same in our social life, wanting to be the focus of attention, to be liked, loved or admired by pretty much everyone we meet. We seek status, a superiority over others and constantly battle with others over who is better.

Desire, which is at the core of much of our lives, is a tension between what we have and what we do not. Fear, another common emotion, is a tension between what we want to happen and what may happen. These and other emotions of arousal can create a rollercoaster of ups and downs that are ultimately tiring.

Contentment is a relatively high need that often appears after others are largely satisfied or bypassed. It exists and appears in people who have tired of the material life, where consumption and status have lost their glittering attraction. Contentment is what people seek when they meditate, when they go off to retreats, when they have evenings in rather than evenings out. If it can be found, it is remarkably pleasant.

Contentment is often sought through religions, particularly those that promote simple living. Such a life often is ordered by a limited number of strict rules. Without much to worry about, adherents can contemplate life and the universe more readily. Contentment has also been sought through philosophical approaches. the Stoics sought calm and self control rather than joy.

So what?

Contentment is a state of mind that you can achieve without becoming a monk. Practices such as Tai Chi and meditation can help, as can the modern equivalent of mindfulness.

Contented people can make good leaders. When others see the relaxed enjoyment of life, they try to get closer to it. The content person does not ask things from their followers for themselves, but may point them at inspirational activities through which contentment may be found.

See also

Contentment (emotion), Epicurean pleasure

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