A scene from a first date one of us recently went on:
After chatting about our lives–work, friends, family, and so on–my date posed the question, “So you’re pretty content with your life as it is?”
My answer: “Well, I’ve got a great job, I’ve got awesome friends and family, so yeah, I guess I’m content with my life as it is, if you want to put it that way.”
His response: “You should never settle for being content. You should always want more than what you have.”
Whoa, dude. That’s getting a bit philosophical for a first date. But it was a question that got us thinking: why does wanting more have to mean being unhappy with what you have? Or to put it another way, what’s wrong with being content?
When you look it up, the definition for the word “content” sounds pretty good: “In a state of peaceful happiness; satisfied with what one is or has.” But it would seem that over the last few years, being content has gotten a bad rap. Somehow it’s become synonymous with settling for less than what you want. If you think about it, it’s easy to figure out why. As women, we are bombarded by images all the time that are designed to convince us that we should want more than what we have. We’re trained to think we should want better hair, a skinnier body, bigger boobs, a nicer car, and designer clothes. What we have, even if we are happy with it and it fulfills our needs, should never be good enough. Instead, we are told that we should always want more. But doesn’t that seem sort of ridiculous? So we ask, what’s wrong with being happy with what you have?
Now, let us be clear. Being content in the present doesn’t mean you don’t want more for your future. But just because there are things you want for your future, it doesn’t mean you can’t be happy in your life right now. It seems that we’ve been schooled to believe exactly that: we can’t be content with what we have and still strive for more at the same time. Instead, many people believe that we can’t be happy until we have more: more handbags, more money, more fame, more Twitter followers. But if you think about it, doesn’t that mean we will never, ever be happy because there is always going to be more we could have? Therefore, are we destined to be unhappy, greedy assholes for the rest of our lives? We sure as hell hope not.
Instead, we believe being content with what you have and wanting more–having goals and dreams and ambitions–aren’t mutually exclusive. You can, and should, strive to be happy today where you are with what you have, and still want more for tomorrow. It’s easier said than done, we know. We are constantly reminding ourselves to try and live in the moment and stop worrying so much about the future. So, while it’s not easy, it seems like a better way to live than always being concerned about how to get the elusive “more.”
Oh, and by the way, I never heard from that guy for a second date, so apparently being content isn’t good enough for him. Too bad. It sure as hell is for us..