Self-Transformation Series:
Issue No. 35

The Art of Contentment

Table of Contents

I. Why Important

II. Contentment vs. Passivity

III. The Art of Contentment


I. Why Important

A rich man can be unhappy, if he is discontented; while a poor man can be happy, if he is contented. A famous movie star can still be envious of others and hence unhappy, while a humble housewife may be content with the simple pleasures of a home life, and hence happy.

The art of contentment is an extremely valuable wisdom to gain. For it enables us to remain serene and unperturbed whatever status we have attained. It is a key to inner peace and serenity, and prerequisite to lasting happiness.

II. Contentment vs. Passivity

Contentment does not mean that one ceases to improve or grow. This kind of contentment is death of the soul. Contentment and aspiration can go together. For one can aspire and do one’s best, and still be contented with the outcome of the aspiration, whatever it may be.

III. The Art of Contentment

1. Realize that discontentment is often the result of comparison with others

When we envy others, we are often asking for the impossible, that is, to want something and not be willing to take the sacrifices to attain them; or to do desire right now that which is beyond our present reach. To wish to have a happy marriage without being willing to improve oneself is to ask for the impossible. To desire to have a beautiful face when we are not born with one is to court unnecessary discontentment, unless we are willing to go through plastic surgery.

Envy deserves pity more than anger, for it hurts nobody so much as itself. It is a distemper rather than a vice: for nobody would feel envy if he could help it. Whoever envies another, secretly allows that person's superiority — Horace Walpole

2. Clarify what is important to you

Rather than compare oneself to others, it is better to clarify within oneself with is truly of value to him. Let these be the goals. Whether one becomes like another person is no longer important, for tine values of another may be different from oneself.

3. Do your best to achieve what is important

It is natural for us to pursue what is important in our lives: it can be peace of mind, a comfortable home, a happy family, the writing of a book or music, etc. Just be excellent in this according to one’s capacity, not the capacity of another.

4. After doing your best accept the fruits of your effort

Your best is what is humanly possible. Accept it and be contented with it.

Looking back, I am content. Win or lose, I have told you the truth as I see it. I have said what I meant and meant what I said. I have not done as well as I should like to have done, but I have done my best frankly and forthrightly; no man can do more, and you are entitled to no less.

ADLAI E. STEVENSON, governor of Illinois, remarks on a radio and television broadcast summing up his presidential campaign on election eve.

5. Cultivate Patience and Acceptance of Adversity

Realize that life sometimes brings us adverse circumstances for reasons that we do not understand. Learn to bear it with patience, for there is an inner law that brings back balance and harmony.

Be content with your lot when it is beyond your control, be it blindness, disability, or even death.

It is not miserable to be blind; it is miserable to be incapable of enduring blindness. - John Milton

6. Distinguish between what you need and what you want

You will find that your real needs are simple and few. But your wants or wishes are legion. These wants can be multiplied or can be diminished, which will determine whether you will unhappy or contented.

The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have, and to be able to lose all desire for things beyond your reach. — Lin Yutang

7. Live in the present

Appreciate every moment as it comes. It is the only reality. See things as they are, rather than as you wish them to be in the future. There is a perfection in every moment in spite of the apparent imperfections.

Again, living in the present does not mean that the person no longer thinks of the future. One can think of the future bunt still live in the present. Thinking is a present activity. It is being here and now.

8. Be Aware of Emotional Insecurities

Discontentment often comes from emotional insecurities or lack of self-esteem. For example, a person who lacks self-confidence tends to want to acquire wealth or power or fame to prove himself or herself, and hence finds it hard to feel contented with what one already has. The emptiness does not really lie outside. It lies within oneself. It is therefore helpful to work out these insecurities.

All time discontented people I know are trying sedulously to be something they are not, to do something they cannot do. - David Grayson

9. Develop a Wholesome Philosophy of Life

Discontentment arises from a narrow philosophy of life, while contentment arises from an outlook that puts large and small things in their proper perspectives. A wholesome philosophy of life, for example, views properties merely as fleeting possessions in a lifetime, and hence does not allow these things to occupy tine entire of one’s values amid attention.

Let your actions be rooted in wholesome principles, and know that whatever you actions you sow, they cannot reap unpleasant fruits. Be content with the sowing, for the reaping will surely follow, as the day follows night.

He will easily be content and at peace whose conscience is pure. ––Thomas A. Kempis

10. Transcend the Needs of time Personality

Ultimately all personal discontentment is due to the self-centered nature of the ego. Spirituality is the transcendence of this ego, and hence of its fleeting needs. One now lives for a higher purpose, and no longer the satisfaction of one’s body, feelings or perceived wants or needs.

To be of service is a solid foundation for contentment in the world. — Charles W. Eliot

There are nine requisites for contented living:

HEALTH enough to make work a pleasure;
WEALTH enough to support your needs;
STRENGHT enough to battle with difficulties and forsake them;
GRACE enough to confess your sins and overcome them;
PATIENCE enough to toil until some good is accomplished;
CHARITY enough to see some good in your neighbor;
LOVE enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others;
FAITH enough to make real the things of God;
HOPE enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future.



Contentment, even in poverty, brings happiness; discontent is poverty, even in riches. -- Confucius

We are not to make the ideas of contentment and aspiration quarrel, for God made them fast friends. A man may aspire, and yet be quite content until it is time to raise; and both flying and resting are but parts of one contentment. The very fruit of the gospel is aspiration It is to the heart what spring is to the earth, making every root, and bud, and bough desire to be more. -- H. W. Beecher

One Year of Joy another of Comfort, the rest of Contentment, make the married Life happy. -- Thomas Fuller (1 654-1 731)

To live content with small means;
To seek elegance rather tin than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion,
To be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
To study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly;
To listen to stars amid birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
To hear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasion, hurry never;
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through time common -- this is to be my symphony. -- William Ellery Channing

Who is wise? He that learns from every One. Who is powerful? He that governs his Passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody. -- BENJAMIN FRANKLIN,

He that holds fast the golden mean And lives contentedly between the little and the great; Feels not the wants that pinch the poor; nor the plagues that haunt the rich man's door. -- William Cowper

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. -- Epictetus

The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them: a man live long, yet get little from life. Whether you find satisfaction in life depends not on your tale of years, but on your will. -- Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Essays, 1, 20

I am always content with that which happens, for I think that which God chooses is better than what I choose. — Epictetus

When Pyrrhus was about to sail for Italy, Cineas, a wise and good man asked him what were his intentions and expectations. "To conquer Rome, " said Pyrrhus.
"And after than at?"
"We will subdue Carthage, Macedonia, alt Africa and alt Greece."
"And when we have conquered all we can, what shall we do?"
"Do? Why, then we will sit down and spend our time in peace and comfort"
"Ah, m Lord," said the wise Cineas, "what prevents our being in peace and comfort now?" -- George Lincoln Walton

Whether our efforts are, or not, favored by life, let us be able to say, when we come ear the great goal, "I have done what I could." - Louis Pasteur

When we cannot find contentment in ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere. — Francois Rochefoucauld

He is happy whose circumstances suit his temper; but he is more excellent who can suit his temper to any circumstances. — David Hume

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Copyright 1995. Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
Peace Center
Theosophical Society in the Philippines, 1 Iba St., Quezon City, Philippines

"If five percent of the people work for peace, there will be peace."