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Balancing Contentment with Inspirational Discontentment

Balancing Contentment with Inspirational Discontentment

One of the seventeen principles of success in the book Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone is that of “inspirational discontentment.” The idea is that a person needs to be just discontented enough with his or her income or standard of living that it inspires them to greater success. At first glance there is a lot of logic in this statement, and probably most self-improvement comes about ultimately because a person isn’t happy with the status quo.

However, the greatest self-improvement book of all time, the Bible, makes the statement that “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” We probably won’t arrive at a consensus as to what constitutes “godliness,” but think about the rest of what this statement says. Contentment is valuable! A person who has contentment has something that equals great gain, or wealth.

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Everyone has heard stories of multi-millionaires who were never satisfied regardless of how wealthy they became. They always had their heart set on the next dollar. The very essence of a joyous life eludes people like this. Discontentment inspires them to work hard and achieve wealth, but there is a very real possibility they will never advance far on the fundamental quest we all have for happiness.

Every individual needs to answer this question for themselves. With what aspects of my life am I discontented? How can this feeling inspire me to improve in these areas? And how can I taste the joy of living right now, in spite of the imperfections or even needs in my life?

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The popular radio personality, Dr. Laura (Schlessinger) wrote a book called Ten Stupid Things Men Do to Mess up Their Lives. One of the stupid things she writes about is “stupid ambition.” Ambition in and of itself is a good thing – a very valuable thing, in fact. But it becomes stupid when pursuing ambitious dreams takes up so much time that the more satisfying things of home, family, and relationship are crowded out. Sometimes self-help writers push the idea of saving some time out for oneself, but Dr. Laura says that the busy career oriented schedule is already dedicated to oneself! What about the spouse and the children? The time spent building relationships will ultimately contribute just as much to the overall quality of life.

Here are some suggestions for living now while pursuing lofty goals. First, schedule in some time each week for a date with your special sweetheart. Make it a priority. You don’t want to succeed in business but miss out on life. If you have children, you can schedule an evening or afternoon to play games and spend time with them. Start this habit now. Don’t wait until you meet your next financial or career goal.

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And, yes, there is a place for self-time. It can include your daily time of spiritual reflection or prayer, exercise, or other things you do to be good to yourself. The thing to remember is that it is possible to let yourself be content in some areas of life, while pursuing a greater level of skill or performance in other areas. One thing that helps a person develop contentment is the old-fashioned attitude of gratitude. Take the time to count your blessings often. Then let discontentment inspire you in areas where growth is needed.

A very tangible example of this principle from my own life is in the area of neatness. It is possible for me to enjoy my family while little by little building habits that help me keep things neater. I don’t have to sacrifice people for personal growth!

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Barbara Wood

References:
Complete Audio Holy Bible: King James Version (1st Timothy 6:6)
Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone
Ten Stupid Things Men Do to Mess Up Their Lives by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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