The Big Dilemna: Seek “Happiness” or Find Contentment

I started writing to help me process the nagging sense of discontent that wells up in me every so often. Despite the fact that on many days, I feel truly happy, there persists a feeling that something else awaits. I figued if I put it down on paper, enlightenment would present itself. Like most writers, the more you write, the more you read. Personally, I find myself drawn to blogs and books about personal development, simplicity, self-help, etc. because that’s what I’m fascinated with. The problem is, it sometimes feels like the more I read about people finding themselves and their true passion and purpose, the more anxious I feel about discovering what that looks like for me. Meanwhile, I practice yoga, and read about the importance of being present and grateful. I look at my life and all the blessings I have, and I wonder if I shouldn’t just stop all the reading about self-help, and find contentment in what’s around me. Is all this seeking to find an answer just a distraction from the true enjoyment of the present? Or is it PART of it?

A few weeks ago, a girlfriend from yoga invited me to join a group of ladies who were going to explore “The Happiness Project,” a book by Gretchen Rubin. In the book, the author spends a year researching and testing theories and practices on being happy. If you read my post The Trouble with Yes, you know I’m practicing saying no as part of my commitment to creating space in my life. So I opted against the 12 month commitment, but I couldn’t help wondering what the book had to say. So here I am, reading “The Happiness Project” and feeling this strange anxiety and inner turmoil arise.

Right at the moment in the book when I was ready to put it down and follow my own advice of staying present and content with what’s going on in my life now, Gretchen touched upon it. She says, “I searched for a way to account for the fact that people seem programmed to be striving constantly, to be stretching toward happiness. For example, we tend to think that we’ll be slightly happiner in the future than we are in the present.” According to her research, Yeats wrote, “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”

This is it! Thank you Gretchen Rubin!! I was starting to wonder why I was blogging at all. What am I hoping to attain? What am I seeking? Am I just wasting time making myself busier? Am I preventing myself from being truly happy in the present because I’m constantly exploring the possibilities of change?  No! It’s all part of the journey! Reading, writing, pondering, exploring…it’s all part of my growth and it’s growth that inspires me and fills me up. Onwards and upwards. I strive to find contentment in the present while never ceasing to enjoy the journey towards even greater happiness in the future. It all goes together! Sometimes you need someone else to tell you exactly what you want to hear, which is often what you already know to be true. Or as Gretchen quotes in her book, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” And that’s exactly what happened as I was reading “The Happiness Project.” Much thanks to the author!

One thought on “The Big Dilemna: Seek “Happiness” or Find Contentment

  1. Oh Erin, YES! Your thoughts are what I’ve struggled with and continue to struggle with daily. The constant battle between being present and actively participating in my growth (looking to the future). Please continue to be true to your personal resolutions and take care of what is most important to you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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