Tuesday 26 October 2010

Happiness or Contentment?

I was talking to a friend of mine days ago. The conversation took an unexpected turn when we started talking about happiness and contentment. Both our definitions were different.

She thought happiness was far better than contentment. "Contentment is simply settling for less," she said.

"How so?"

"Well, you decide that you're fine with what you have and it makes you kind of happy. That's being content."

"And happiness?" I asked.

"Happiness is getting what you want or more...the right career, the adorable husband, the amazing house, etc. Happiness is pleasure. Why settle for semi-happiness?"

"How can these things or people make you happy? You're not happy right now with them, but rather about what these things or people will do to you in the future. The perfect job is probably more money and now you can do more and buy more things with the extra money. The adorable husband will take care of you and some of your dreams or life goals can now be realized. Soon enough there will be other milestones and destinations. Happiness is about the future, not the present.

"Acquiring things or people for that matter won't make you happy...forever. Of course, you'll be excited and thrilled at first. This is after all what you've been dreaming of for so long. But the human mind can sometimes be strange to understand. We keep looking for happiness outside. Are people with more money happy forever? People with better health? People with amazing lovers, sexy bodies or brilliant careers? Because we tend to want everything. Once a slot is filled, we quickly look to fill the next empty one and so on. So you have to be happy within. Actually content is the right word in this case. Being content is being grateful for what God Has given you...for what you have right now, not thinking about what it/they will bring you tomorrow. For instance, you may not be 100% happy with your job. You actually may be stressed, overworked and it may not be the right career for you. You can choose to look at it this way. Or you can still have your goal on your mental radar and be content with what you have now. After all, hundreds of thousands of people don't have jobs; and you do."

"So, you're saying that if someone who seems fine proposes to me, I should accept and be content with him as a husband?"

"Nope, I didn't say that. Let me ask you a question. If you meet a wonderful guy and you fall in love with him, how happy will you be to marry him? Now how long do you think this happiness will last? After some time, you'll get used to him, his love and his company. Passion may start to fade away and things aren't as exciting as they once were. That's life, after all. Would you go look for another someone to make you happy and excite you again? Or would you be content with him and your marriage and allow happiness to creep up on you every once in a while? Is that settling for less? Not at all. That's contentment which can last a lifetime. It's in your hands to see less as more. And you'll start seeing more as much more which will make you much happier. When you're content, you can find happiness and goodness in almost anything! Your reward is that the happy times will stretch for you and the bad times will shorten in length," I said.

To me being content is being grateful. Life has taught me that when you're grateful for the "little" things, it gives you more to be grateful for and there's less to stress about. That's being content. Now the amazing thing is if you're not naturally content, it may take you some time to learn it. The instant you realize you're settling for less, contentment flees outside the door. That's the secret. Some people keep looking for happiness outside of them. They spend their lives doing so, making more and more money, or moving from one relationship to the next because they're not "happy yet" or "not happy anymore". Happiness can become the definition of what we do not have rather than what we already do. And such people, sarcastically, are never happy no matter what or who they keep getting. Because that ideal happiness keeps getting harder and harder to find. Their desire/need for happiness will never be fulfilled this way. They will always seek or want more.

A content person is peaceful and accepts with gratitude what life gives him. They accept themselves and others, talents and flaws. Being content is a choice. "Ideal" happiness is temporary (acquired by external circumstances/possessions/people); and when we lose it, we become insecure, fearful, depressed, sad, angry, etc. until there's something else to be happy about.

Just like I believe that part of love is choice and decision. You decide to put energy into something.

You can also help yourself become more content. Avoid negative people and "sad" or depressing music, TV or movies. And unless you start looking inside of you for happiness, you'll keep seeking it outside...and you will spend your life doing so in vain.

"Riches are not from an abundance of wordly goods, but from a contented mind."- Prophet Muhammad

Let me hear your thoughts.

© Marwa Ayad

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