THE BLOG

Is It Okay to Be Content?

04/12/2014 12:29 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2014

After speaking to 1,000 people at a conference complete with Q&A and spending a weekend with retreat participants who had life-changing ah-ha's, one question that stuck with me in the two weeks hence was: "Is it okay to be content?"

Asked of me by someone in my career-clarity and life-direction workshop, my answer was "of course," but the question lingered. It made me consider that the answer is conditional. Being content is a great thing, however, I've also observed it can be an avoidance technique. I've only met a few people in my lifetime who seemed truly content when they said they were. The rest of the people said they were content as if they were giving up. There's a difference between not wanting anything because you're content and not wanting anything because you don't think you can have it.

Do we have to be pursuing something? Do we have to have goals? Do we have to be improving ourselves in some way all the time? Absolutely not! And I mean that.

At the same time, I see contentment like hunger. You can eat without stuffing yourself and stop at the point where you are just sated. Eventually, you will get hungry again. That's how I see human growth and potential. There's always something to explore or want. It's okay to coast sometimes. It's okay to have priorities other than your own fulfillment -- if you have children or a demanding job, paid or unpaid, you know that for sure -- but eventually there will be a longing. It's the price we pay for being human.

Are you content?

Do you feel tremendous gratitude for your life?

Do you feel relative ease with the decisions on your plate now?

Do you feel at peace with yourself despite any shortcomings?

Do you have virtually nothing in your life that disrupts that peace?

Do you feel buoyed and connected to yourself, others and life?

If you answered yes to all of those, you are in the minority and you are to be congratulated. Does that automatically put the rest of us in discontent? Not necessarily. But if you say you're content, it doesn't mean you will be without wants. It just means you are okay with or without getting what you desire.

The woman who asked me the question cried a lot over the weekend and blamed me for "doing that to [her]." She said she was content until she sat through the weekend.

Content? Maybe. But more likely previously numb because the truth was too much to bear.

I am sympathetic. Change is frightening and not knowing how to change something is even more isolating and scary.

Mahatma Gandhi said: "Healthy discontent is the prelude to progress."

It is okay to be content. It's wonderful. I wish it for us all. But if we're not, it's better to be honest about it and realize that it's not something to be afraid of. "The only way out is through." -- Robert Frost