How do you find a balance between striving for greatness and finding contentment in the present moment?
Striving, or whatever you want to call it- being driven, yearning, reaching for the stars- comes at a cost if you don’t balance it with enjoying what you have already achieved.
Whether you are aiming for $5 million in your bank account, chiseled six-pack abs, or a flawless, argument-free relationship, you have to be content with what you have already accomplished in the journey of chasing your dreams.
Contentment is not the passive act of saying to yourself, “Yeah, okay, I guess this is it… This is good enough.” In fact, it is quite the opposite. Contentment is a conscious decision to be happy with what you already have. It’s waking up to the world around you and saying, “Wow, I am already in a fantastic position. I have (X) going for me, and I get to do (Y) every day. Life is amazing as it already stands.”
A lot of the people that I know who are into self-development are prone to getting stuck in a trap of endless striving. Because self-development (being a largely emotional process) is about becoming aware of and working through your demons, self-development junkies get stuck in the habit of only searching for their faults. They think, “Okay, now that that emotional hurdle is out of the way, what else is wrong with me?”
While owning and working through your flaws is an extremely noble process, there must be moments in your journey where you slow down and tell yourself, “Even with my so-called faults, I am already complete. I am a fine example of a human being.”
Here are five ways that contentment can be integrated into your striving ways.
1. Health, Fitness, and Nutrition
I get it. Your health and physical fitness matter to you.
Maybe you work out five days a week, are gluten free, and have a ridiculous eight-pack of abs.
But one of these days, you’re going to miss a session at the gym. You’re going to go out to a restaurant and eat a greasy burger. You’re going to have more booze than you told yourself you would.
And guess what? You’re allowed to do those things. The world will not end.
Eat that delicious burger and grant yourself the indulgence. “YES! This tastes stupidly amazing. And I will eat it without any guilt because I am a momentarily fat, and happy person.”
2. Your Sex Life
Whether you ejaculated faster than you wanted to, couldn’t achieve an erection, or just had an overall embarrassing performance, so what? If it’s happening every time, let’s talk. Is it a rare inconvenience? Who cares!
The guys who last for hours in porn don’t even last that long (spoiler alert: porn is even more fake than a lot of big budget Hollywood films).
If you were born after 1975, there’s a good chance that your model of human sexuality was set by an unattainably false verse of intimacy. Porn and Hollywood romantic films are to blame for that. In reality, your partner doesn’t expect you to make her come ten times every time you have sex. Reaching orgasm together takes skill and patience, and while it certainly happens on occasion, you shouldn’t expect that of every single one of your sexual encounters.
Sex can be transformative, passionate, and heart-breakingly beautiful. It can also be hilarious. Don’t expect perfection from yourself when it comes to dancing the mattress mambo – life is far too short for that.
3. Partner Finding
By far, the two most frequent problems that I see arise in regards to relationships in my consultations with single men are the mindsets of 1) “I am waiting for the perfect woman to be in a relationship with and I don’t want to settle”, and 2) “I’m waiting to be as amazing as possible before I start looking for a partner.”
First off, in addressing the “I won’t settle down into a relationship until I find a partner who is perfect in every way” crowd…
Who do you think you are? You don’t want a relationship with a human, you want a romanticized fantasy to come to life. If you are searching for a partner who is a trained chef, registered massage therapist, and winner of multiple beauty pageants (without even entering them because that would be too vain for her flawless, humble soul), then you will be searching for eternity for a human who doesn’t exist.
You need a reality check. Realize that in a relationship, you are dating a person, not an idealized fantasy.
As for the “I’m still working on myself” crowd… isn’t it oh so comforting to hide behind the wall of eventually letting yourself be happy?
The truth is, you’ll never be flawless. You’ll never be a multimillionaire in peak physical condition who is spiritually enlightened with zero emotional blockages. And even if you were, would you really want to be in a relationship with someone who would only accept you at that level of perfection? There’s something to be said about meeting a partner who is similarly flawed, realizing your patterns and helping each other break free from them, in order to grow together.
Enough with telling yourself that you’ll be happy one day. You can open up to love and be happy right now, if you open up to the possibility of contentment, of loving yourself as you already exist.
4. Financial Abundance
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” – Mahatma Gandhi
You don’t need to make a lot of money to lead a rich life. If you kill yourself chasing money, then you will die a miserable and sad old person with very little character. Some of the happiest people that I have ever met were homeless Balinese people who sat on the side of the road and beamed love through their smiles at passersby. By Western standards, they were dirt poor. But in terms of being filled with love, compassion, and contentment, they were some of the richest people I have ever seen.
As per your actual work, you can be content in the striving of your career advancement, as long as you love what you are doing. If you don’t love what you’re doing, what’s the point of filling half of your waking life with something that you resent?
5. Your Intimate Relationship
You’ve studied all of the books, and gone to all of the relationship seminars, and you follow all of the relationship blogs, and yet you still had a fight with your partner?!
OH MY GOD, do you know what that means???
It means that you’re human.
It means that you’re an honest human with needs who is in a relationship with another autonomous person with their own set of needs. And sometimes, those needs conflict with each other which can lead to the two of you butting heads. But then you work through it and you grow.
You are going to mess up, and say stupid things, and get frustrated when you don’t understand why you’re not being understood… but as long as you can bring yourselves back to a place of love after a fight, you’re doing just fine.
Slow Down, And Enjoy Yourself
Contentment is recognizing that perfection is a myth.
Contentment is slowly sipping an aged scotch in front of a campfire with your closest friends (even though it goes against your diet).
Contentment is allowing yourself to lay your head down on your partner’s chest because you’ve had a long work day and it’s time to rest.
Balance is an illusion. You will never be sitting perfectly between striving and contentment- and if you are teetering on that middle line, it won’t be for long. Our lives are constantly in a state of flux, and if you don’t slow down and enjoy yourself every now and then, you’ll die sad, wrinkly, and unfulfilled.
So eat that burger. Get that massage. Lay your head on your partner’s chest and just relax.
Dedicated to your success,