If you chase happiness, it will always be one step ahead of you. If you chase contentment, there is nowhere to run
Do you think there is a difference between happiness and contentment? As we pursue our goals and try to achieve the lifestyle we want, I find myself contemplating the difference between these two.
They way I see it, in relation to contentment, happiness may be a bit easier to obtain and is temporal. Buying stuff or a vacation feels good at the time, but is often short-lived and followed by a low when things return to normal.
I believe that contentment requires being satisfied with a bit less, but requires more effort through discipline and patience. It may mean letting go, or buckling down. It's recognizing that what you already have is pretty good and worth holding onto, or what you are working for is worth working towards.
For me, surfing is a fun (and trivial) example of how these two concepts play off each other. I'm reminded daily while I am at work of other people's adventures; they are surfing in bath tub temperature water, getting barrelled all day in board shorts and then drinking cervezas all night. I cannot help but feel envious. A short travel stint will give a taste of this lifestyle (as well as a new perspective and great memories!), but as soon as you are back at your desk, you get the feeling that you are missing out (#fomo). What to do? Quit your job and runaway! (#yolo)
On the flipside, surfing on south Vancouver Island has given me a small taste of contentment. First and foremost, it is complimentary to where I am at in my life (location and responsibilities), and secondly, it is a good challenge, almost like a puzzle to be figured out over time. It is less about that one session, but rather about the entire process. It requires commitment, and forces you to interact with the tide, the weather, the seasons, the climate pattern, and my work schedule. It allows me to ignore the noise of digital life and instead focus on where I am. It plays out slowly over years with different friends and family, and always gives you something new to learn and look forward to. Putting in the hard days makes the good days better, and it lets you see all the different aspects of the environment. I remember sharing the lineup with a grey whale calf that hung out with us while mama went eating, but the waves were terrible that day!
The waves on the Juan de Fuca Strait are diminishing for the season and I am excited that it's time to start driving out to Tofino for the summer. When the summer is over I'll be ready for some real winter waves again (hopefully not El Niño!). I think that a big part of my contentment around this is that it aligns with my reality and it is regularly attainable.
Don't get me wrong. I want to keep traveling the world (... the list grows daily) and I crave the open road, but I don't want it to be our only source of happiness. For me, I am finding that there is perspective to be gained from staying put.
Is this how you view happiness vs. contentment? How does it apply to you?