Are you content or discontented in your life? Is being one way better than the other? As is true for so many things in life, it depends.
Most of us aim to be content in life, and who wouldn't when it means achieving a state defined as peaceful happiness? But what do you do if you are not content? Can any good come from being discontented? Let's examine some possibilities.
The two kinds of discontentment
There are, in essence, two kinds of discontentment in the world. One kind of discontent drives us to do more, to get more, to become more. The other kind causes worry and concern. The following quote discusses the two kinds of discontent.
"There are two kinds of discontent in this world; the discontent that works, and the discontent that wrings its hands. The first gets what it wants, and the second loses what it has. There's no cure for the first but success; and there's no cure at all for the second." Gordon Graham (1949-present)
Face it, all of us deal with discontentment in our lives. Unfortunately, sometimes we can become so discontented it can push us over the edge to a loss of happiness and complete dissatisfaction with life. It can happen anywhere and anytime. You will often see it in people at work, in their marriage, with their financial situation, in their relationships, and a hundred other ways.
The discontentment that wrings its hands
When we allow discontentment to create worry and concern in our lives, the hand wringing Graham mentions in the previous quote can lead to a downward spiral. While I agree, If you remain in this state of discontentment, there is no cure. But you have a choice, and you do not need to remain in this state of hopelessness.
Sometimes in life, it takes hitting rock bottom with nowhere else to go to wake you up. When you can't go any lower, you can do one of two things. You can give up, or you can begin to fight. To give up can lead to dire consequences. We humans are not meant to live with a loss of all hope.
Hopelessness is well known as a leading cause of suicide. If you even suspect someone is in such dire straits, do whatever you can to encourage them to see a medical professional. Or have them call one of the many local suicide prevention hotlines or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. They need encouragement. They need to know there is hope and a future for them. Suicide is a most serious matter. Almost 1.5 million people attempt suicide each year in the USA, with nearly 50,000 dying.
I had a good friend in his 40's who became so completely hopeless he took his life. It breaks my heart to this day that I had not paid more attention. Since that time, I have played the what-if game over and over in my head. I have asked myself what if I had stayed in touch with him more. What if I had suggested he seek help. What if I had encouraged him more. What if, what if, what if, to no avail.
The discontent that works
Opposite of the discontented person who sees no chance of success is the discontent cured by success. This kind of discontent makes you move forward. It makes you change. It motivates you. It often creates the quickest and easiest path to success! Unfortunately, it may require you to hit rock bottom.
Most of us have been at this point more than once in life. It could simply be you are not happy with the work you are doing, making you seek a different and possibly better job. Or it could be discontent with anything in life that motivates you to do something, anything!
Hopefully, you won't wait until you hit rock bottom as I did in my twenties. Because of the crazy hours I worked on a full and part-time job six or seven days a week, I neglected my wife and young daughter terribly. With my wife also working, we barely saw one another, and I had little time for my daughter. When the divorce papers arrived at work, they forced me to my knees. There was no way I was going to lose my wife and daughter. I hit rock bottom hard. Thankfully we reconciled quickly, and I changed immediately. Not a little for a short time either. I changed radically and permanently.
My wife's discontent made her seek a way out, and my discontent with my work situation made me find another path.
The old Harry Chapin song "Cat's in the Cradle" had become popular around that time, and did its words ever pierce my heart. Looking back, I am thankful for that time of discontentment in our lives, although I prefer to avoid such experiences whenever possible!
May you enjoy much contentment and happiness in your life, but be awake when discontentment calls. Life was designed to move us from discontentment to contentment (happiness) and back to being discontented again to becoming content (happy) once more. This never-ending cycle is what makes life a challenge yet enjoyable. It is what helps us not settle into a state of complacency and nothingness. It keeps us moving forward, creating, and achieving in life. It is the only way for us to continue growing and improving.
As with many things in life, too much of a good thing can be bad. Don't seek more discontentment in life – it will find you! When it comes, use it as an opportunity to move forward.
May you never suffer the kind of discontentment that causes hopelessness and destroys life. However, I hope you will always be thankful for the discontentment that enriches life and ends with success!
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