When was the last time you felt truly content? What were you doing? How long did it last?
If I’m honest with myself, the times I feel satisfied and fairly ok about life are quite fleeting, often when I’m holiday basking in the sun rays, on a walk soaking in a spectacular view or taking photos, or when taking time out from work-mode to be with my most treasured people. I imagine this will be the same for a lot of you reading too – it’s largely the simple almost unnoticed moments.
Yet most of our tweets and updates are concerned with striving for more, reaching impressive targets, and being better, bigger or richer than we currently are. This realisation got me to wondering whether we can ever reach complete satisfaction.
Have you ever seen someone else tweet, someone you summarise as ‘having it all’, or at least everything you are currently yearning for or working your butt off to try and achieve, complaining about not doing well enough, not having enough followers, not getting enough subs, event invites, holidays per/year etc (or whatever the equivalent is in your industry). Do you find yourself feeling resentful and thinking ‘I’d kill to be where you are?” It can be incredibly hard not to feel frustrated with those people, sometimes it feels like they’ve completely lost perspective regarding how lucky they are to be where they are in life. But rather than focus on being niggled with someone that appears to be being hugely unappreciative (from where we’re sitting), perhaps we should actually try and understand why they feel like that. Why isn’t it enough for them? And….would we feel exactly the same in their position?
For me anyone who can afford to have their own house, do work they love and who still have money to travel, go out to eat etc, have EVERYTHING I could ever want (career wise). I’m mystified when I see them feel frustrated about lack of growth or views, or not reaching their next milestone in terms of subs on YouTube, because to me, they already have all they need to live what I believe to be a more-than satisfactory life. Why stress yourself out when you already have more than enough?Just enjoy the fruit of your labour I say to myself.
But it seems clear to me from these observations that reaching a certain number, or earning a certain amount of money, isn’t enough to deliver contentment to a lot of people. So why do we put so much emphasis on these numerical things? Is it because we hope in having more money or more followers we will be able to do more of the stuff that does deliver contentment? Is it because we need to feel like we are progressing/evolving/learning to feel satisfied in our job roles? Or is it because for some it’s what people think about us and our position in the industry/society, that effects our own feelings about our lives? I deduce that it’s different for each individual. My version of happiness or how it can be achieved won’t be everyone else’s recipe for happiness, although research does suggest that the ingredients for most of us usually do come in very humble, simple, everyday forms.
Although watching and taking in other people’s journeys can be inspiring and give you a kick up the butt occasionally, it’s important to understand your own goals, but more importantly, why you have them. It may also be helpful to be brutal with yourself about your priorities or goals and ask yourself whether they have real merit, and an actual ability to deliver what you are seeking from life.
Here are some questions I feel could help you understand what you’re striving for and whether it’s actually going to deliver what you need to feel happy.
When you’ve taken time out from social media, have your priorities, goals, or feelings of where you are currently positioned, changed. What I mean is, do you believe your feelings of not having enough or not being enough (yet) have come merely from the daily comparison-making that being present on social media brings as an unpleasant side-effect. Do you think you’d be content with what you consider a lot less, if you weren’t basing it on what others have/do?
Rather than success and respect, is it actually fame you’re seeking? I see this with a few people I follow (no shade whatsoever), it seems they will only feel truly proud if it’s something that others will be impressed by, something public, something that places them in the realms of ‘celebrity.’ Quiet or discreet success would therefore never deliver them what they’re looking for, so they’d always be lusting for more spectaculr news they they can share online. This isn’t one a lot of people will want to admit to, but it’s definitely evident in the blogging industry – some influencers really enjoy the adulation and public element of work. I’m not stating this is either a bad or good thing, but I do think it’s important to evaluate.
Do you want/need to feel like you are making a difference. Perhaps spreading awareness of something or being there for others. My friend recently had a life revelation, which lead her to acknowledge that she would only be happy in a career where she was actively helping people on a daily basis (she’s decided to train to be a therapist after years grafting and finding success in a completely different industry).
Are you living to work, or working to live, and which way round do you want it to be? Are you content with having a job that simply gives you the means to pay the bills and enjoy life out of work, or do you want a completely engrossing career that consumes most of your time and thoughts, hopefully because you love it so much?
Have you got proof that the things you are gunning for to deliver you happiness, contentment
and satisfaction, do in fact deliver that, to YOU specifically. Or have you made an assumption that these things are what you need to have/achieve because it’s what other people seem to want/desire?
When you reach your targets how long does that feeling of pride and accomplishment last before you move on to thinking what you should be doing to get to the next level?
Personally, in terms of YouTube, I’ve always said that my ultimate goal would be to reach about 25k subscribers, because from observing others I believed that at that point I could likely bring in enough revenue from sponsored videos to be able to afford rent on a place, and get by – which is all I’ve felt I needed to be satisfied. I don’t want to get too big, because fame and the unique pressures that would bring, isn’t something I’m here for. However, seeing how others have behave after reaching their own YouTube goals, I’m not so naive to think that I wouldn’t react in the same fashion – being that I’d simply move the goalposts forward and immediately start pushing for the next milestone (maybe 50k subs). Although there is comfort in the status quo I think ambitious people don’t like the concept of being stagnant in their career.
I know now that YouTube will never deliver me complete career satisfaction though, even if I reach my desired level of success, because I think I know myself well enough to know my personal contentment doesn’t come from a large audience, fame, popularity or the act of posting videos. It can help to deliver a certain satisfaction which comes with creating visual stuff, but even that aspect isn’t quite enough for me (which is why I opened my Etsy store). This is also why over the last few years I have taken on work behind the scenes that people don’t know about, and may never know about. A lot of it involves helping other people achieve their dreams, and this work fulfils me in a different way. Take a moment to think about what you think could deliver you contentment, and whether you have that now?
This is where I got up to before I took a break from my blog post writing to grab a quick hot chocolate and chat with my best mate Holly. Something which always delivers an bundance of contented moments. We have a shared interest in matters of the mind, so often find ourselves discussing issues likes this. Today, even before I mentioned I was writing this piece on satisfaction, we found ourselves discussing these issues at length, much of it inspired by one of her latest self-help book purchases, The Antidote.
The book asks whether our search for Happiness is futile, or whether we’re just going about it the wrong way.
Before I even read some of the pages inside, the reviews on the back struck a significant chord with me, and backed up some feelings I’ve had regarding the obsession with setting goals, and the mindset that we should constantly want more, more, and even more out of life. The Daily Telegraph reviewer refers to the ‘treadmill of disappointment.’ – a term which sums up how I feel about the goals, and the pressure we put on them. The expectation that ticking off those goals will deliver instant happiness and complete satisfaction. ‘If life can have one destination, then Burekman argues, we should enjoy the journey as much as we can and deal with the terminus when it comes,’ says the Observer critic.
How much sense does this all make when you think about it?
I’ve often thought, particularly during January when we all are persuaded by the media, and the pleasing neatness of starting a new year with a template or guide, that we should obsessed with setting targets, self improvement, and knowing what you want out of the year ahead, that these actions are actually distracting us from the present, the now. We know from our view counts that people love to read inspiring blog posts, ones that get people feeling optimistic, excited, and hopeful for the future. We regularly talk about chasing dreams in a positive and occasionally idealistic way to deliver the retweet-able content, but isn’t there a chance we are getting the angle slightly wrong here?
Sure, I think we can all see how having goals can help us focus, perhaps help us ensure we channel our energy into the right areas, but in doing so we are forgetting about channelling our current energy into the right thing i.e Realising that in that moment you actually feel happy. This quote from the book says it more articulately than I ever could.
‘The Optimism-focused, goal fixated, positive thinking approach to happiness is exactly the kind of thing the ego loves. Positive thinking is all about identifying your thoughts, rather than dis-indentifying from them. And the ‘cult of optimism’ is all about looking forward to a happy or successful future, thereby, reinforcing the message that happiness belongs to some other time than now. Schemes and plans for making things better fuel our dissatisfaction with the only place where happiness can ever be found – the present. ‘The important thing’ Tolle told me, ‘is not to be continuously lost in the mental projection away from the now. Most humans are never fully present in the now , because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life.’Another staccato chuckle. ‘And that’s a revelation for some people. To realise that your whole life is only ever now. Many people suddenly realise that they have lived their life as if this were not true – as if the opposite were true.’ Without noticing we’re doing it , we treat the future as an intrinsically more valuable than the present. And yes the future never seems to arrive.’
Do you think you ever truly appreciate the high of achieving the goals you’ve just met, before you start thinking about what your next goal SHOULD be, or how you COULD get there? How much time is spent thinking about what you want or wish you had, rather than thinking about what you’re doing right now and how great/educational/helpful/beautiful that moment in time is. Holly also pointed out something I’ve never thought about before, which was a bit of a game-changer for someone like me who is constantly day-dreaming about the future they want.
Cult books and documentaries (like The Secret and Cosmic Ordering Related resources) encourage us to visualise, write down, create moods boards of the things we want and the dreams we have. They tell us that in doing some they will be delivered to us, but Holly’s experience of following these instructions has been very different. She made the point that when she thinks about her aspirations and ideal scenarios (the place she wants to live and how she wants to spend her time) she feels that rush of happiness. Perhaps not to the extent actually having them would deliver, but certainly feels a noticeable pleasurable feeling. Simply picturing and imagining that scenario in her head quenches the thirst for those dreams temporarily, which in turn also temporarily stalls her drive to actively seek them out in her reality. In her case imagining that future regularly, mean’s she also regularly putting that desire on hold, thus having the reverse of the intended effect. It’s like eating little squares of chocolate frequently and never having the desire to try and eat a whole great big bar of the stuff.
We’re all different, so honest self exploration is key with all this stuff. But like I’ve said in before when referencing my favourite Ally McBeal quote: ‘The real truth is, I probably don’t want to be too happy or content. Because, then what? I actually like the quest, the search. That’s the fun. The more lost you are, the more you have to look forward to. What do you know? I’m having a great time and I don’t even know it’. We should be putting more emphasis on the ongoing journey, our personal, individual and unique quests and it’s lifelong ever-changing terrain. Don’t become so obsessed with the future and what needs to be ticked off or be part of that future, that you missed the stuff that’s happening right now, the joys, the heartaches, the lessons. These are so vital to be recognised because they all inform the future moments (the ones I’m urging you not to focus on anymore).
My time living at home now, despite it’s many complications and conveyer belt of stresses, is teaching me to be calm and patient, interact with my parents on an adult to adult level, be resilient, be proactive despite limitations because of my situation, to breathe deeper… and more. It’s also equipping me with useful tools and coping mechanisms. I’ve realised I don’t need to write it down to know that my goal is to move out, of course it is. I’m going to try a new approach and focus on what this situation is giving me now, good, bad, and bad but educational. I can apply this to all elements that make up my current situation.
I realise that ironically the goals are not in fact the goals. The crazy, frustrating, rewarding, happy, stressful, anxiety- creating, difficult, stuff happening in-between them is. Once you get your head round that you’ll be able to let go of the concept that satisfaction and happiness comes from achieving goals. We already know we are excited by journeys (there’s a reason those people get all the votes on Strictly and X Factor) and feel enriched by a sense of progress, so it’s it makes sense to make a real point of focusing on the current moments, they are always important and a have a unique significance, but more importantly they’re real. It may be hard to think like this, if you perceive the current moment to be bad or negative, but that’s life isn’t it? Feeling these moments, the rough and the smooth, is what life is and it’s about time we started living, rather then getting sidetracked by a life not yet lived, or one that’s already happened. In a nutshell, appreciate the now guys, it only happens once.
It may seem that this outfit is appropriate because of the bright sunny yellow long sleeve with the smiley face on it. Visually, it links nicely to the theme of happiness and contentment. But that’s not why I see it as the perfect accompaniement to this post. Nope. This outfit and shoot was totally unplanned and was something I decided to do in the moment. I woke up to sunshine, which seemed like the first time in ages, so decided I wanted to wear bright colour in celebration. Si had a gap in his schedule between waiting for some deliveries so we hopped in the car and decided to take some pictures in the local park. The whole look and shoot was an unstrategic whim, one that ended up panning out well and serving as a successful accompaniement to this post. It’s funny how spontaneous things are often the best or most successful, which once again serves as a good reminder of how living in the moment can be so beneficial. Anyhoo the long sleeve is from Tonight Alive’s merch offerings. Loveee the 90’s feel. The trousers are one half of a Topshop suit, and of course the trainers are my beloved Converse high tops.