Sometimes chasing happiness seems like a foolhardy pursuit. Because while some people are happier than others, no one is happy all the time.
But what about contentment? Being content is a more sustainable and achievable state of being.
Let’s discover the secrets of really content people, and what we can learn about them.
1) They don’t try to pretend to be someone they aren’t
A lot of unhappiness comes from striving. To be someone else, to have something else – an endless pursuit.
I have a friend who spends a lot of time thinking about her self-image, her status, and how people perceive her. She likes to look cool and thinks a lot of things are ‘cringe’.
She has a love-hate relationship with social media. She’s unable to avoid it due to work, and so is trapped in a cycle of portraying a perfect life. And then obsessing over who watched her stories and who didn’t.
Although I don’t think she’s pretending to be someone she isn’t, it feels like she isn’t quite sure who she is yet, or if it’s okay to be who she is.
Truly content people know who they are (and yet accept that we are changeable). They realize that whatever they wear, or say, or do, is fine, and they love themselves for it, no matter what others think.
This relates to my next point:
2) They are self-compassionate
We all make mistakes, we all do things that we may regret. And if we are self-aware then we will know that we have flaws and things to work on.
But the genuinely content people accept this and don’t judge themselves when they fall short of their usual standards.
Instead, they are kind and compassionate to themselves. They also see themselves as a work in progress, not a finished piece of art that has to be perfect. Without the pressure of self-judgment, they can be content.
And there’s more!
Because they accept themselves as they are, they know something very important which is:
3) They know how to accept others as they are
If you don’t expect yourself to be perfect, then you won’t expect other people to be either.
The content person also doesn’t expect others to fall in line with their own ideas, morals, or viewpoints. They don’t preach (in a bad way) and they don’t judge (most of the time!)
One of the best things about this, from a contentment point of view, is that if you don’t expect the world from others, you won’t be disappointed when you realize their humanity.
This takes away a lot of stress and resentment.
That doesn’t mean that content people have a negative view of others. In fact, these people hope for the best for others. They just don’t place emphasis on idealized versions of people.
And that takes us to another important characteristic:
4) They know how to accept things as they are
The mantra of the content person is “The grass isn’t greener on the other side”. Just as they accept themselves and others, they also accept the situation they find themselves in.
Let’s turn to an old Chinese Proverb, to see how powerful this can be:
In a quaint village, an old farmer faced life’s unpredictable twists with wisdom and equanimity.
When the farmer’s horse ran away, the villagers sympathized, “You must be so sad.”
The farmer replied, “We’ll see.”
The horse returned with two more, and the villagers exclaimed, “How wonderful! What great fortune you have!”
“We’ll see,” answered the farmer.
When his son broke his leg riding one of the horses, they said, “What terrible luck! Now you have to do all your farming alone”
The farmer calmly said, “We’ll see.”
A month later, the farmer’s son was still recovering.
The army came through town taking every able-bodied young man to join them. When the regiment came to the farmer’s house and saw the young boy’s broken leg, they marched past and left him where he lay.
The military spared his son, and the villagers rejoiced, “You must be so happy!”
I think you can guess what happened next…
The farmer smiled, repeating, “We’ll see.”
This story shows the farmer’s acceptance of life’s uncertainties and hidden blessings. He wasn’t overjoyed at seeming good luck, but neither was he shocked by apparent bad luck. To me, this is the essence of contentment.
5) They express gratitude and don’t take things for granted
Taking things for granted can be a quick way to unhappiness. If we take our friends and family for granted when they are there for us, they may not be there for us next time.
If we take everything in our life for granted, we may end up with a sense of entitlement.
This can take us away from contentment because it leads us to focus on what we believe we deserve or are owed.
This makes it difficult to appreciate and be grateful for what we already have, causing dissatisfaction and perpetual longing for more.
And round the circle goes!
On the other hand, by regularly taking the time to express gratitude, it means that you won’t take things for granted. And you will also feel more joy and contentment in your life.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” – Melody Beattie
6) They know how to take pleasure in what they do
These grateful and content people have another secret to show us.
They can find the good in whatever they do and take pleasure in it. Much of life involves doing routine things. So the people who can take pleasure in the simple things are the lucky ones.
But by knowing this, we can create our own luck!
Through adopting a mindset of gratitude and contentment, we open ourselves up to a world of pleasure from the everyday.
Whether it’s savoring the first sip of morning tea or coffee, relishing the warmth of the sun on our skin during a walk, or finding joy in completing mundane tasks, the content people remind us that happiness can be found in the simplest of moments.
Need more inspiration? Here are some little things you can take pleasure in:
- Watching the sunrise/sunset
- Feeling the warmth of a hug
- Sharing a smile with a stranger
- Walking barefoot on soft grass
- Singing along to your favorite song
- Appreciating a beautiful flower
- Gazing at the starry night sky
- Patting a pet
- Holding hands with a loved one
- Listening to raindrops
- Biting into a juicy, ripe fruit
- Receiving a heartfelt compliment
- Watching a heartwarming movie or show
- Enjoying a delicious home-cooked meal
So many good things to enjoy!
7) They have a sense of purpose
Enjoying life’s simple pleasures is wonderful, but there’s one more trait that content people usually have – knowing their purpose.
That might sound intimidating, but like many of the points here, your purpose doesn’t have to be some life-changing world-saving thing. Don’t get me wrong, big goals can be the driving force for many people. But the simple things can work too.
As an existential well-being coach, when people are depressed, one of the things I will look at is if they have a sense of purpose in their life. When we look at the ‘blue zones’ or places in the
world where people tend to live to over 100, we see that this is one of the things that increase longevity and well-being.
Do you long for a sense of purpose? Here are some ideas that could help you to become a genuinely content person.
- Acts of kindness
- Mentoring or teaching
- Caring for pets or nature
- Supporting a cause
- Creating art or handcrafts
- Active listening
- Setting and achieving personal goals
- Acts of gratitude
- Supporting family and friends
If you can find a sense of purpose in your life, you can enjoy increased fulfillment.
The secrets of being genuinely content – the takeaway
Being genuinely content means keeping it real, embracing self-compassion, and accepting oneself and others.
Expressing gratitude for the little things and finding joy in everyday moments are essential personality traits.
Having a simple sense of purpose adds valuable meaning to life, which increases contentment.
If you want to be like these genuinely content people, then stay true to yourself and appreciate life’s blessings!