Everyone, of course, wants to be happy. The question is: how? How can we be happy? For many people, the answer is to have more: more money, more fame, more achievements.
I don’t think that’s the right answer, though. Why? Because having more is a never-ending journey. Yes, you might be happy for a while when you get what you want. But then the cycle repeats itself. After a while, you want even more to be happy.
No, having more is not the way to happiness. Instead, I believe that the way to happiness is the opposite of wanting more. The way to happiness is being content.
What does being content mean?
Being content means being happy now with what you already have. You don’t need this or that before you can be happy. You don’t say to yourself, “If only I have that, I will be happy.” No. You already have all you need to be happy.
If you are content, you will be happy even if you don’t have much. But if you aren’t, you won’t be happy even if you have much. Benjamin Franklin put it well: “Contentment makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.”
Contentment is powerful because it gives you the space to do things that fulfill you. Instead of spending your time on chasing more stuff, you can now spend your time on realizing your potential and contributing. These will give you inner fulfillment.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs describes this concept well. Those who want to have more will spend their time on the lower parts of the hierarchy, especially the physiological (material stuff) and esteem (reputation) parts. Those who are content, on the other hand, will spend their time on the higher parts of the hierarchy: the self-actualization and self-transcendence parts. Self-actualization corresponds to realizing your potential, while self-transcendence corresponds to contributing to a cause that matters to you. Both are how you can live a fulfilling life.
One thing to remember: being content doesn’t mean just staying where you are. In fact, it’s the opposite: you will still get better at what you do. But what’s different here is your motivation. Your motivation is not to get more stuff (physiological) or reputation (esteem). Instead, your motivation is to realize your potential (self-actualization) and contribute (self-transcendence). Because you want to realize your potential and contribute, you will get better at what you do. You will achieve more. But the motivation is different.
Being content is essential for living a full life. It allows you to be happy now, not later in a distant future. It also gives you the space to realize your potential and contribute. These will lead you to live a fulfilling life.