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The Debate Between Settling and Contentment

Where do you stand?

Which quadrant are you in?

If you’re content, does it mean you’re settling? If you’re settling, does it mean you’re content? I’ve seen these terms used interchangeably in the past, but I’ve recently begun to realize that there is quite a difference in the two.

To me, when you are content you are at peace. You are at peace with your life, your possessions, and your choices. The Greek philosopher, Epictetus, is credited with the quote, “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” Sounds like a pretty content dude to me!

And, when I think of settling, I think of someone that isn’t living up to their potential in their job or life. Are you settling for the job you have because you’re comfortable, but you know you could do/be more? Are you settling for the life you have because it’s easier to blame other people or circumstances for your situation?

What quadrant are you in?

In an attempt to help visualize the possible scenarios between the two words, I put together the diagram at the top of the post. The sweet spot of this quadrant is the top right corner. When you feel content and know that you’re not settling, all three of these would apply. The worst place to be is the bottom left corner. If you’re not content with your life and know that you’re settling for the job or career you have, it’s hard not to feel like you’re stuck in a rut. And the other two quadrants are somewhere in between, where you’re experiencing one or the other, but not both.

When we don’t appreciate what we have, it’s hard to be content with our life. When I wrote about our freedoms here in America, I also discussed a book that argues that we have too many choices. However, if we are content, we don’t expose ourselves to all those choices that make us anxious and depressed. When we find something that meets our needs, we stop searching; we are content. We’re not constantly looking for more or better to be satisfied.

At this point, I find myself in that wonderful top right corner. At other times during my life and career, I was firmly planted in one of the other three corners. Before leaving the corporate world, I identified more with the top left corner (content but settling). As I mentioned in my “re-evaluate” post, I was going to just bide my time for 10 more years in that corporate job before I got to all those things I’d been putting off. That’s the epitome of settling. Was I using some of my talents? Sure. Was I using all of them to the fullest, and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone? Absolutely not. Far from it, in fact. I allowed myself to get comfortable (too comfortable) in the daily routine, and I wasn’t growing. Riding it out would have come at the cost of immersing myself in more meaningful work.

Tomorrow, I’ll be conducting a personal finance workshop with the senior class of a high school here in Atlanta. I’m going to tell these students that they’re about to embark on some of the best years of their life, as they finish high school and move on to college, join the military, or start a job. I’m also going to try and convey to them the importance of being content with what you have. Remember, more is not better. Young people have a great opportunity to start their adult lives with a clean slate, and studies show that there has been a shift over time away from spending money on things, to spending money on experiences. Good news, indeed!

Bringing it together

I saw the following quote on the livingfrugallyfun Instagram page:

“Minimalism is about contentment, and contentment is the only thing that truly brings you joy in life.”

As I wrote in my post about joy and happiness, I’ve found joy by being content and not feeling like I have to have the next big thing, a bigger house, or more money. And I find happiness in that I don’t feel the need to pursue more or “better.”

In his book, Money: Master the Game, Tony Robbins wrote “I’ve always taught that success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.” If you’re settling, and not fulfilled, it’s time to make a change. Revisit your goals, and the vision you have for yourself. If your life and or/job aren’t supporting your goals or vision, begin thinking about ways to change for the better!

Strive for contentment in your life, but don’t settle for a job you hate. If you don’t like your situation, change it; you’re not a tree!

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