It was meant to be a compliment from a friend, but I couldn’t have been more insulted. Content? You called me content? I was furious. How did this happen – how did I get to this null and void place in my life were I so lazily had become ‘content’! At what point had I let go of all my dreams and passions to be drowning in this self centred (and clearly obvious to those around me) wallowing pit of contentment! All in all I was shocked and extremely worried!
For days I pondered this randomly and casually thrown insult disguised as a compliment around, it was literally keeping me awake at night. I wondered where I had gone so wrong! Surely I was still as passionate and driven as I always had been? Surely I still had big goals and dreams that I was striving for? I tried to pin point when this disastrous case of contentment may have kicked in without me even noticing?
I asked friends for clues – had they noticed? When did they first see it? Were they concerned for my wellbeing now too? Surprisingly – most of them were happy to see me happy and completely shocked by my horror! But nothing seemed to explain why I feel so guilty, so disappointed in myself and so insulted?
I did some research – it turned out I should not just be content but that as a resident of the country listed 8th on the worlds happiest countries list by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s report on life satisfaction – I should be happy to be happy! Even the Delai Lama concurred: “I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment.”
I began to wonder why then did I think that contentment was so evil. Surely on the long and painful road to the seemingly unobtainable goal of lifelong happiness at some point we should be allowed to feel even a little content? Eventually my thoughts turned to wondering why it was that I thought contentment was actually a negative thing? Why in my mind and in the mind of the many people I asked was contentment synonymous with complacency? I wondered when and how did that happen? Was society to blame for setting my expectation that happiness and contentment was a negative thing that must mean that I no longer strived to achieve something more? Or did it simply mean that at some point, I had somehow managed to refocus my view of the world around me?
In this day and age when we are all so “busy” doing <insert your very important task here> we often forget to stop and take stock on what we have achieved and how far we may have come along our journey towards our goals. How many times have I said (and heard others say) thing like: I’ll be happy when…. I get this pay rise; I get that big customer; I get that promotion; I achieve that goal; or even vicarious goals such as when… my kids do well at school!
In business we spend time sitting down to plan strategic goals, mapping out timelines and skillsets needed to achieve those goals and celebrating successes. In fact, here at BlueChilli we work with company founders to set SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound) goals, and help them focus on achieving them. We work with the founders to set big goals, we set small goals, we set weekly goals and we measure how we go against those goals for the purpose of always knowing how far we have come which ensures that we are able to congratulate ourselves on our successes and learn from our mistakes. Why don’t we allow ourselves the same support and encouragement in our day to day lives? Each Monday we share our achievements from the previous week with our fellow founders in the Monday Standup and congratulate and support our founders to achieving steps towards their goals. If anything rewarding these small achievements helps keep us driven on the big goals while making sure we are happy with the progress.
In all this pondering I realised, I am no less driven or goal orientated than I used to be but somewhere along the line I learned to take stock, to look at what I had achieved and give credit where it was due, to learn from things that didn’t go as planned without beating myself up, as well as continue to look forward to where I was headed and how much closer I was to that goal each day. Take some time out to think about even the small wins you have made recently and congratulate yourself. Especially in this rollercoaster of the Startup world – you need to celebrate the wins, while keeping yourself passionate and driven towards your big goals of success.
I still don’t know why being content seen as such a negative thing these days but I am starting to realize that I am actually quite fortunate to be so content! I hope by remembering to take a step back and see how much you have achieved, if only for a moment, helps bring you some contentment today too.