Be Content Where You Are

I snapped this picture of TJ (one of our dogs) and Buddie (our iguana), each wanting to be where the other one was. It made me laugh watching them look at each other through the glass, but it also made me think about being content with where I am in my life.

I don't think being content with your life means you don't strive to better yourself or your situation. For me, being content means even though there are things I'm working towards changing, my happiness doesn't depend on it.

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
-- Socrates

I'd like to share an article with you, from one of my favorite blogs Zen Habits about, that talks about living a life of contentment.

Peaceful Simplicity: How to Live a Life of Contentment
by Leo Babauta

This fantastic quote summarizes something that I’ve been trying to focus on recently in my daily life:

“Whatever the tasks, do them slowly with ease, in mindfulness,
so not do any tasks with the goal of getting them over with.
Resolve to each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Master

In our daily lives, we often rush through tasks, trying to get them done, trying to finish as much as we can each day, speeding along in our cars to our next destination, rushing to do what we need to do there, and then leaving so that we can speed to our next destination.

Unfortunately, it’s often not until we get to our final destination that we realize what madness this all is.

At the end of the day, we’re often exhausted and stressed out from the grind and the chaos and the busy-ness of the day. We don’t have time for what’s important to us, for what we really want to be doing, for spending time with loved ones, for doing things we’re passionate about.

And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to live a simpler life, one where you enjoy each activity, where you are present in everything (or most things) you do, where you are content rather than rushing to finish things.

If that appeals to you, let’s take a look at some suggestions for living a simple, peaceful, content life:

What’s important. First, take a step back and think about what’s important to you. What do you really want to be doing, who do you want to spend your time with, what do you want to accomplish with your work? Make a short list of 4-5 things for your life, 4-5 people you want to spend time with, 4-5 things you’d like to accomplish at work.

Examine your commitments. A big part of the problem is that our lives are way too full. We can’t possibly do everything we have committed to doing, and we certainly can’t enjoy it if we’re trying to do everything. Accept that you can’t do everything, know that you want to do what’s important to you, and try to eliminate the commitments that aren’t as important.

Do less each day. Don’t fill your day up with things to do. You will end up rushing to do them all. If you normally try (and fail) to do 7-10 things, do 3 important ones instead (with 3 more smaller items to do if you get those three done). This will give you time to do what you need to do, and not rush.

Leave space between tasks or appointments. Another mistake is trying to schedule things back-to-back. This leaves no cushion in case things take longer than we planned (which they always do), and it also gives us a feeling of being rushed and stressed throughout the day. Instead, leave a good-sized gap between your appointments or tasks, allowing you to focus more on each one, and have a transition time between them.

Eliminate as much as possible from your to-do list. You can’t do everything on your to-do list. Even if you could, more things will come up. As much as you can, simplify your to-do list down to the essentials. This allows you to rush less and focus more on what’s important.

Now, slow down and enjoy every task. This is the most important tip in this article. Read it twice. Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a work task or taking a shower or brushing your teeth or cooking dinner or driving to work, slow down.

Try to enjoy whatever you’re doing. Try to pay attention, instead of thinking about other things. Be in the moment. This isn’t easy, as you will often forget. But find a way to remind yourself. Unless the task involves actual pain, there isn’t anything that can’t be enjoyable if you give it the proper attention.

Single-task. This is kind of a mantra of mine, as I talk about how to single-task all the time. But it’s an important point for me, and for this article. Do one thing at a time, and do it well.

Eat slower. This is just a more specific application of Tip #6, but it’s something we do every day, so it deserves special attention. See this article for more.

Drive slower. Another application of the same principle, driving is something we do that’s often mindless and rushed. Instead, slow down and enjoy the journey.
Eliminate stress. Find the stressors in your life, and find ways to eliminate them.

Create time for solitude. In addition to slowing down and enjoying the tasks we do, and doing less of them, it’s also important to just have some time to yourself.

Do nothing. Sometimes, it’s good to forget about doing things, and do nothing.

Sprinkle simple pleasures throughout your day. Knowing what your simple pleasures are, and putting a few of them in each day, can go a long way to making life more enjoyable.

Practice being present. You can practice being in the moment at any time during the day.

Find inspirations. Learn from the best.

Make frugality an enjoyable thing too. Instead of delayed gratification, try enjoying life now while saving for later.


Mandy said...

I'm so excited to have found your blog! Looks like I'm going to like it here. I love the unschooling concept and I'm praying that my family can make that transition once it is time to start school!

Thanks for this post... I needed it today.

Joanne said...

Hi Mandy...nice to have you here. If you have any questions, I'll do my best to help! :-)

Amanda said...

I loved this article. I've really been trying to focus on slowing down like this lately. I still have days when I get lost in the unconsciousness of stress-inducing worry and hurrying. But when I can stop, breathe, and take things one moment at a time it makes SUCH a difference! Thanks for sharing. :)

Joanne said...

Hi Amanda....your welcome. :-)

I needed to read that also. It's a great reminder.

Space of Reality said...

I do agree that there are some extent that you have to be content and happy for whatever you have and wherever you are.. but if in case where you are is not comfortable, then I guess it is recommended to go out of your familiar zone, do you agree?

Hye of Space of Reality

Joanne said...

Absolutely! I think it goes without saying that if you're in negative situation, you shouldn't be content to remain in it.

lillinda said...

Hi Joanne,
I found your blog thru another. We are considering trying to unschool. We are also an adoptive family with mild RAD issues.I have read back on your blog about your adoption and RAD. In one of your posts, you explained RAD in a way I never heard it put before. This has helped me tremendously. It explains why he is still having trust issues after several years with us. Thank you !
We have hs-ed for 3 years now . We started with "school at home" . Being a former teacher, I am having to deschool myself. I plan to read more of your blog in the coming weeks. Thanks for being a lighthouse for me.

Joanne said...

Hello Linda! Sounds like we have a lot in common. :-) E-mail me at billyandjoanne AT yahoo.com so we can talk more. :-)

Shannon said...

Great post. I needed to read something like this today.

Ernesto said...

I am a very contented person, despite very simple life and all, yet somehow I have thoughts about what life could be if I were given the chance to be in the shoes of a much more accomplished person. I would like to believe having such thoughts and feelings is simply human nature.

You have a wonderful blog by the way!

horse racing blog said...

Being contented of what you have is a great attitude to be proud of..but I believe that most of us are not contented of what we have now..we are asking for something ..with out even thinking for the blessings that came our way..in order to be thankful.