Jason and I really couldn’t be any more different. I’m always thinking about the next harebrained scheme – where we are going to travel next, what new thing we are going to try… bigger, better, more. Jason on the other hand is quite content to stay home, meet up with his group of friends, and have a consistent routine.
Anytime I have a free minute, I’m thinking about what needs to be done – writing a newsletter for True North, scrolling realtor.com for a dream home (obviously still in Northside), flipping the mattress, pulling weeds, washing the shower curtains, cleaning the grit between the stove and counter (why doesn’t that get sealed off anyways?). I’m always annoyed to see in Jason’s free time, he’d prefer to be reading a book on the porch, baking something tasty, playing a game, or watching some Marvel movie/show. His activities aren’t “moving us forward”. I am quick to call Jason unmotivated, but that really isn’t it at all. He is content. He loves our life the way it is. There is nothing he needs changed to be happy. When he sees our house, he sees all of the love and beauty in it, not that we are closer to a desert rather than the typical Bellevue front yard or that water is leaking into our basement.
Our society is often all about keeping up with the Joneses – you make more money, you get a bigger house, a nicer car, and fancier stuff. Jumping from a smaller hamster wheel to a larger one – the ultimate rat race. You could work less, you could not have such high payments on _________, but choosing to upsize your life typically increases responsibility, stress, and chaos.
I never thought for two seconds about these trade-offs, but after having our baby the thought of missing out on time with him seemed just plain wrong. I found myself basking in his coos, staring at him for hours, not having this sense of needing to be anywhere or doing anything that wasn’t more than what I was doing in that moment. My focus pivoted from wanting everything to be perfect to being content being right here right now- just hanging out with him. As my maternity leave was waning, I started to worry about how this would change. Would I still be doing the 10 pm work nights and stress that goes along with it and not be able to be present for our son?
Happiness versus Contentment
Our culture’s view of happiness focuses on the growth of our physical empire. What will make us happy? I’ll be happy when I get that new car, that promotion, or the bigger paycheck. But what if our focus was on being content where we are?
A Yale research study conducted by Daniel Cordaro, Ph.D., the founder and CEO of the Contentment Foundation, dug into over 5,000 years of human philosophy and 200 years of scientific research to find there were two different strategies for well-being used for thousands of years – the “More Strategy” and “Enough Strategy”.
More is more
The “More Strategy” is all about finding satisfaction from external factors and validation from outside of oneself – more power, more stuff, more money. Although having more could make anyone happier temporarily, there is always a desire for the next best thing, i.e. keeping up with the Joneses.
Enough is enough
What the “Enough Strategy” boils down to is finding happiness from within oneself. The key to contentment is being happy with what you have/your happiness comes from within. Dr. Cordaro’s research found that over 90 percent of the time, ancients used the word and described contentment as a state of “unconditional wholeness,” regardless of external factors. Meaning we are whole or complete just the way we are no matter if we or those around us experience anger, frustration, happiness, joy, or sadness.
As I dive back into the workforce, I realize I can’t let this juggling act of motherhood, my relationships with Jason, friends, and family, homeownership, True North responsibilities, and now part-time marketing position impact how I feel and the quality time I have with my family. Maybe being content with the “wholeness” of my life is all that I need and can stop worrying or dreaming about the future. And although some are better at this (prime example = Jason), I know this is going to be an ongoing struggle for me and I will probably find myself referring back to this article regularly to remind myself enough is enough. Enough IS enough.