Making Contentment and Happiness Co-Exist

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Words by Jacquelyn Salvador

As humans, each of us hard-wired to try to improve our life situation. It’s something we all do at some level or another. It just varies in appearance. Some elements of that might be things like having a well-paying job that you love, or just being able to cover the costs of your family, or something as simple as having access to clean and safe drinking water.

As an author and full-time professional on the subject of wellbeing and balanced living, I can definitely relate to this desire to discover and create ideal conditions for living "well" and creating an authentically happy life. If we go about it the wrong way, though, it can result in a feeling of lack. And even when we check off an entire wish-list of what we want in our lives, it doesn't take long before we get used to that new "standard" and our mind comes up with another 10 items to add to the list.

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If we can reconcile that tendency to strive for more with a sense of acceptance of where we are, we create a sense of wellbeing that accompanies us through whatever life brings.

The thing is, there's a difference between pushing toward happiness (or at least the vision of happiness that lives in our minds) and finding happiness in where we are today. In a recent interview I was asked specifically about this idea, and whether there's a difference between contentment and happiness. The answer lies partly in how you personally define each of those things. More importantly, though, those things don't have to be opposing or mutually-exclusive forces in our lives.

If contentment represents finding joy, fulfilment, and/or satisfaction in where you are in life, that's wonderful, and probably a very worthwhile thing to seek, but it doesn't mean you can't also be actively envisioning and creating for yourself an even more ideal way of living.

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Likewise, if to you happiness means cultivating and maintaining elements of life that are important to you (making professional achievements, developing life-enriching social connections, improving your physical health), you can certainly benefit from that while simultaneously practicing gratitude and acceptance of your current life circumstances, as they are today.

It's not an either/or equation, but a both/and solution: you can be both content with your life and actively working toward an even deeper level of authentic happiness.

In that shimmering, undefined space of both acceptance (of the actual) and hope (for the potential), it's our ability and will to cope, adapt, and grow which matter most. If we can nourish those abilities and enter a space of curious, trusting personal development, we'll find ourselves experiencing the warmth and excitement of both contentment and happiness, one grounding us in appreciation of the present, and another driving us toward even greater things.

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Author of 360 Living: Practical guidance for a balanced life, Jacquelyn is a tireless seeker of personal betterment, and she's on a personal mission to help others find their own best version of life. Her own (ongoing) journey of personal happiness started out with years of chasing the perfect approach to "the good life," but she eventually realised she was anything but happy, so she packed life into a backpack and hit the road to find it for herself on a backpacking adventure around Europe. Along the way, she teamed up with the Authentic Happiness Project to help others on their own journey of personal happiness (backpacking optional) through an empowering combination of inspiration, learning, and personal reflection.

Jacquelyn lives and works as a yoga instructor with Affordable Yoga & Fitness in Paris, France, helping others find better health and happiness through mindful movement. She shares her adventures in the art of living a good life on Instagram at @jj_moves.

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