I have a good life, but I’m never content

by Ali on April 8, 2008

Do you ever find yourself thinking there must be something more? Perhaps you feel a bit guilty: you’ve got a good job, a nice home, a loving family, and you know that you’re better off than most people in the world.

Yet, despite telling yourself all this, you still feel that you’re not achieving what you wanted in life. Maybe you’re not satisfied with your weight or fitness levels – or maybe your job is getting you down. Perhaps the problem is with your relationship with your partner, or with your friends.

Whatever the issues are, these feelings of discontentedness can have a knock-on effect on your health – dragging you further and further down. For example, if being overweight makes you miserable, you may lack the motivation to diet, and thus stack on even more pounds…

Finding moments of joy every day

A good way to start improving how you feel about your life is to look for little everyday things that make you smile. If there don’t seem to be any, find something fun to fit into your day! Some of my favourites are:

  • Take time to walk somewhere green: a park, wood or field nearby, perhaps.
  • Treat yourself to one of a childhood favourite snack. I don’t normally advocate snacks as a cheer-yourself-up method, but kid-sized ones won’t do too much damage. (I suggest a Kinder Egg for a guaranteed grin – only 20g of chocolate, and they have a toy inside!)
  • Enjoy a short story in your favourite magazine, or a chapter of a novel you’ve been wanting to read.
  • Dance around to a bouncy piece of music (probably best when you’re at home, or alone in the office…)

What do you want to change?

Try to pinpoint exactly what factors are making you feel discontent with life. You can’t improve things until you know what’s wrong. Be totally honest with yourself. It’s fine to admit that you’re miserable about your body, relationships, career, and financial situation – even if you put on a brave face about all of these to other people.

Focus on the biggest problem area and find ways to gradually improve. For example, if your weight has crept up over the years, and you’re unhappy but can’t bear the thought of dieting and cutting out all the foods you love … you don’t have to! Find a new way each week to move in the right direction, and”change one thing at a time. That might mean skipping dessert on three nights out of seven the first week, then drinking your six-eight glasses of water a day the second week, and so on.

I strongly recommend keeping a “What’s Better” list at least once a week – write down all the things that were better about this week than the one before, with a particular focus on your problem area. This helps focus on areas of growth, as well as often turning a “meh” week into a good one. You are not allowed to dwell gloomily on anything that went badly – focus on the positives!

Long-lasting happiness

Feelings of discontentment may be frustrating and even depressing to live with. They’re a prompt towards change, and you shouldn’t ignore them: if being content requires radical action, such as moving to a new city, changing your career, taking a sabbatical, finally seeing all those places in the world you want to travel to … then find a way to make it happen.

You may need to work hard, think ingeniously, and be passionately committed to moving forwards – but it is always possible to change things in your life. Don’t stop striving for the best, because you’ll never be content with “just good enough”.

Further reading

There are scores of great articles relating to personal growth and leading a contented life online. These are some of my favourites:

  • How to discover your life purpose in about 20 minutes (Steve Pavlina)It’s hard to live a contented life if you’re not sure what the point is. Don’t know your life purpose? Use Steve’s method to find it.
  • The Perfect Day (Peter, I Will Change Your Life)Here’s how to make each day a perfect one – probably a good way to become more content, especially if you feel that your “average” days aren’t great (perhaps you’re constantly looking forward to your next holiday?)
  • How to get from a 7 to a 10 (Steve Pavlina) When asked to rate their happiness (either in life overall, or one area such as “your job” or “your financial situation”), people who feel it’s “good enough” often plump for a 7. Steve explains how to make that 7 into a 10.
  • Comparison Doesn’t Deliver Contentment (Tim Brownson)If you know (or even just suspect) that your feelings of discontent stem from constantly looking at the success of those around you, or from not being “the best” at work, this article is a must-read.

(Image above by Meredith Farmer)

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