Would you rather go to sleep thinking, “I’m content with the life I lead” or “Wow, I’m so grateful for my beautiful life”?
Contentment is satisfaction. Gratitude is appreciation. Your appetite can be satisfied by eating a meal, or you can appreciate each bite, savoring the smells, mindfully taking in the textures and flavors. Satisfaction is good. Thankfulness is wonderful.
Contentment is a knowing that what you have is enough, whereas gratitude is the active noticing of goodness. A couple difference between the two: contentment is subconscious, gratitude is intentional. Contentment leads to plateaus, gratitude leads to deep joy.
Why does it matter to differentiate between the two? Because so many of us become content with our lives without realizing the good things we have to be grateful for. Contentment becomes a substitute for gratitude. We become content with our relationships, jobs, environments, routines, and end up taking it for granted. Instead of taking the time to notice how lucky we are to have a partner, an income from a job we chose, having a mode of transportation so we don’t have to walk miles, running water. These things are expected. Of course we have a toilet. Of course we can grab a coffee on our way to work. Of course we have a car.
These blessings become "of courses”. These “of courses” lead to stagnation, acceptance of circumstances, and lack of fulfillment. This contentment leads to mediocre lives. Lives full of doing what we’re expected to do, getting married because it’s the next step, pursuing a degree because it’s what our dad wanted.
We become content living mild, mindless lives. We’re “happy”. We have an apartment. We have a reliable car. We go to dinner every now and then. It’s not a bad life...right?
Is it what you want though? Is that the life of your dreams? Do you want to wake up one day and find yourself living the life of mediocrity?
Or do you want to be blown away by yourself? Amazed by the lifestyle you lead. Absolutely in love with the moments you experience. Seeing all the goodness that surrounds you. Obsessed with the beauty that is your life.
Here’s the trick: you can have that life you’re dreaming of right now. It’s not completely out of reach. It’s not ridiculous for you to want your dreams to be a reality. It’s not some fantastical idea. You truly can have it. And you can have it now.
The key? Gratitude.
Gratitude shifts everything. It takes you from acceptance to overflowing with joy. It takes you from “of course” to “OH MY GOODNESS”. It brings you into the fullness of life.
It’s a skill, and like any skill, it comes more easily the more you practice it. It’s a process and it doesn’t come naturally to us in a culture of I Need More. We’re surrounded by ads, movies, and magazines that tell us we don’t have enough. That happiness is just on the other side of (fill in the blank).
But we know we already have enough and we have more than we need. Because the things that fill our soul aren’t things we can buy—although, yes, being able to easily pay rent does take a huge amount of anxiety off our shoulders. What is it that fills your soul? I know it’s not TV, new shoes, or Chips Ahoy. So what is it? Is it a poem? Is it a coffee date with your best friend? Is it learning something? A good workout? What is it that makes you walk away thinking “I’m so glad I did that”?
Let us intentionally cultivate gratitude in our lives. Because, why be content when you can be grateful?
Want to learn how to hone this skill? Check out my post “How to Grow in Gratitude” over here.