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Does contentment lead to complacency?

Last week when I posted a few quotes about contentment, there was a little discussion in the comments about how contentment can lead to complacency.

This concern frequently pops up when I talk about contentment, which is understandable because of course you don’t want to stagnate, stop growing, or quit trying to improve your life.

And if contentment always produced that sort of fruit, I wouldn’t be quite such a big fan of it!

But I see contentment more as a tool to help keep your heart happy while you are pursuing your dreams, hopes, and goals.

If you think you can only achieve happiness by arriving at your goal or by achieving your dreams, you are pretty much guaranteed to be a very unhappy person until you reach the goal or achieve the dream.

But if you start out your journey toward your goal with a contented attitude, you’re much more likely to be happy during the journey.

Also, if you don’t have a contented heart before you try to reach a goal, odds are awfully good that you won’t feel content/happy even when you DO reach the goal.

A discontented heart always wants more, more, more.

For instance, if you can learn to be content on $60k a year, you’re quite likely to also be content after you work hard to increase your income to $100k a year.

Conversely, if you haven’t found a contented heart at $60k, it’s unlikely that $100k will magically bring you happiness.


So. I think contentment can help you feel joy while you’re working to achieve your goals AND it can also help you feel joy once you actually do achieve your goals.

And the reverse is true too: discontentment is likely to bring you unhappiness on the journey and at the destination.

One other thing: there are things in life that we should work to change, places where we shouldn’t be complacent.

But there are also a lot of things in life that we can’t do much to change, and I think contentment is especially helpful in such situations.

For instance, when I was pregnant and super sick with Zoe, I was doing everything I could to feel better, but nothing was working. I remember making a list of things to be thankful for, like that family helped us out, that I hadn’t gotten sick even earlier in the moving process (we’d just bought a house), and so on.

You can’t change your height, your eye color, the color of the hair that grows out of your head, your body type, your physical limitations (I’m always going to have bad eyesight!), your children’s personalities, the weather, or any number of other things in life.

In cases like that, it makes a whole lot of sense to learn how to bloom where you’re planted and how to make the best of what you’ve been dealt in life.

You’re going to be stuck with those unchangeable things in your life no matter what, so you might as well choose the path that leads to more happiness and joy!


I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you find that contentment leads to complacency? Or do you think you can be content and also driven and motivated?


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Thursday 23rd of August 2018

I love this post. The whole fear of complacency thing is very interesting though. I may be totally off base here, and I can't really speak for anyone but myself where this stuff is concerned, but I think that fear of complacency is really fear of allowing yourself to be happy. I think there's a certain vulnerability that goes along with contentment - like "What if I let my guard down and then something really bad happens?" Of course, once again, it's the whole fallacy of control - as if keeping one's guard up can somehow prevent the unforeseeable. That's a trap I frequently fall into.

And I got a good chuckle about the whole eyesight thing. I have terrible vision too, and right underneath your bit about learning to be content with your bad eyesight was an ad for Lasik surgery. Bwahahahah!


Wednesday 22nd of August 2018

I love this post Kristen! I have the same thoughts about contentment.

I think contentment doesn't lead to complacency, but rather people confuse contentment with complacency. Contentment is not just being happy with how things are, but satisfied where you are, where you were and where you're going.

Contentment is to do with the heart.

If you are not content, but very ambitious, this can lead to greater discontentment because you're never going to have enough of whatever you're after. Complacency speaks more of an unwillingness to do anything to change whether it would be beneficial or not.

I feel like you've already said everything I can think to say!

ps the pictures are SO beautiful in this post. I love trees so much.

Diane C

Tuesday 21st of August 2018

On another blog/forum recently, I read, "Ambition is the Enemy of Contentment". I've been turning that one over in my head for days. I think there's really something to that.


Monday 20th of August 2018

This is an old but great book on this subject...How to Want what You Have: Discovering the Magic and Grandeur of Ordinary Existence. Author Timothy Miller

Mrs. Picky Pincher

Monday 20th of August 2018

This is something I recently realized. It had been a long day at work and I felt grumpy. I was soaking in the bath tub, trying to think about what would make me happy. I listed all of the obstacles and challenges I was facing, and wishing they would go away.

But then it hit me.

If I had ZERO worries and felt hunky-dory, life would be boring. It would be nearly purposeless without something to strive for. So I think that the key to contentment is having a balance of things that both comfort and challenge us. It's about finding that sweet spot.

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