Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Don't Worry, Be Happy Now

One thing that used to be a much bigger topic of conversation around this space was MONEY...more specifically, managing it. With a husband who works in finance it's sort of impossible for our family not to think about the subject a lot.

Some people find the topic very interesting. It makes other people squirm. We've never really minded being transparent with our financial goals, in the hopes that it might encourage others to jump on the train of financial peace, too! But it has been nearly TWO YEARS since we paid off that very last student loan debt. What exactly have we've been doing since then?

Some big lessons have been learned, that's for sure! You can scroll though years of past posts about budgeting and paying off debt and buying bargains and all of those kinds of things...but what we've been learning for two years is a little less tangible than those subjects. What we have learned goes beyond finances.

It's been two years and we still have not purchased a home. We have not bought brand new cars. We DID reward ourselves with some family trips, which were metaphorically (but not actually!) priceless. :) But our day-to-day has not changed much at all. We still wait for big purchases and save for times when we know they are coming. We are still so used to being on a tighter budget that we ask each other permission to place an order for...pretty much anything.

While there may now be less payments siphoning our bank account each month, we have continued to live at the same level of lifestyle as ever, and the lessons...the temptations...the discussions have now shifted to one very important word: contentment.

I think being content is something that a lot of people struggle with - we do! In fact, we were just discussing this the other day, which is probably why it's on my mind now. For us, we know that where we are at in life is a very temporary place. It feels like we have yet to put down any real roots somewhere, because we are always waiting to move on to the next thing. Having goals is a great thing, but it can sometimes take away from life in the here and now if we let discontentment creep in.

I joke about it, but let's be real...sometimes Eric and I look around this place and say, "I am so sick and tired of living here." We're tired of the mess of cramped quarters. Tired of feeling like we are in limbo. And when we start thinking that way it affects everything else in our life, too. We're grumpier people in general when we are unhappy with where we are. It can affect our marriage, our parenting, how we speak to one another. Discontentment is a virus.

But what exactly does being "content" mean? Does that mean we should just be happy and accepting of our situation, like it or not, forever and ever?  Is it ungrateful to want more out of life? What is the difference between being discontent and being ambitious? Is it possible to be ambitious AND content at the same time?

Well, the answer to the last question, we have found, is a resounding yes - though the balance can be hard at times. The difference between being discontent and being content but ambitious is purely, 100%, in our attitude about the present. Growing up in church circles, it was not uncommon for me to hear things like "have an attitude of gratitude" and that is precisely what this is about. It's about being thankful for where we are and what we have been given, even though we know there is possibly more out there waiting for us. And it's in being willing to accept that life would still be pretty darn good even if things never did change.

Discontentment takes over when we are so focused on what is coming next that we begin to resent our current situation. We trick ourselves into thinking that we cannot possibly be happy until the next thing comes along. That makes living life in the present miserable, and it's a recipe for disaster.

One huge thing that we have learned is that being content with where we are actually HELPS us to move forward in our goals. You might think discontentment with a situation would spurn someone on to do more and be more, but it's often the exact opposite. Being discontent bogs you down, discourages you, makes you sour, makes you feel defeated in the moment. A content heart is light, it's enthusiastic and aspiring, it's optimistic and it puts you in a much better frame of mind to accomplish whatever you are after. We get things DONE when we have happy hearts.

So today, I want to encourage my friends to seek ways to find contentment, whatever the circumstances. There are some really practical things we have learned to help ourselves with this, and we'd love to share them!

1.) The obvious: Never, ever compare your situation to someone else's. You never know what is happening behind the scenes, and I don't necessarily mean in sinister ways. You don't know what kind of help they are getting, what kind of extra financial boosts they may have through work bonuses and things of that nature, how long they saved for something, how much time they put into something, what sacrifices were made...there are so many variables. Someone else's here and now is not yours, so don't waste your time comparing.

2.) When you DO see someone's successes be happy for them and encourage them, even if it's not your first inclination to do so. Some of the most contented people I know are also the biggest cheerleaders for others. Trust me, this works big time in improving our own attitudes. Just remember if a twinge of jealousy rears itself, that person is at the ending point of a goal when you might be at the beginning of one. Your turn is coming! Hopefully they will return the joy and encouragement when you celebrate a success!

3.) Remember back to a time when you wanted or could only dream of something that you have now. Be thankful for goals already reached and blessings already given. It's just more proof that you can do it and that things really do work out, and keep going!

4.) Be generous. Be giving. Of your money, time, a tiny random act of kindness...whatever you can do in the moment. Generosity breeds contentment. 

5.) Remind yourself that no person or situation is ever perfect. If you are discontent in a relationship, remember that even if you found the best partner or the best friend you could possibly find on this earth...that person would still let you down at some point and drive you crazy about something. It's the world we live in...it's messy. People are messy. Purpose to have a forgiving heart and realistic expectations. 

6.) Do not allow yourself to stress over things that you have absolutely no control over. Easier said than done, I know! When you feel anxious about a situation, think back to another time when you made it through something difficult. Half of the time our own imaginations are worse than the reality, anyway. We work ourselves up over some really stupid stuff. Eric reminds me of this all of the time!

7.) Look around you. You are alive. Your basic needs are provided for. If you are reading this, you are probably better off than 90% of the people on this planet. You have MUCH to be thankful for! 

My favorite:

In our family faith is huge and it grounds us. We believe we can do everything through Him who gives us strength. It is the source of our contentment. :) What grounds you?

I hope this day brings you much happiness and a true sense of contentment. In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double. Don't worry, be happy. Don't worry, be happy now! ;)


Cassie said...

i love you. and this. and appreciate you more than you will ever know.

Adrien said...

You are seriously the sweetest!! Love!


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