On Contentment

I broke my promise for the second time . I promised to post only 4 topics from the book Rules of Life but here’s my sixth post. I’m bad 😦 I’d be honest to say that my compulsion to post what had been hovering in my brain for the past few weeks is so overwhelming that it defeated my sense of decorum, at the risk of being accused of plagiarism πŸ™‚ Rule 65 – Contentment is A High Aim – is one rule that gave me some sense of perspective when I’m bouncing in and out of the state of quandary, wondering if happiness is ever achievable.


Rule 65 – Contentment is a High Aim

If you ask a lot of people what they want in life, they say, β€œOh, just to be happy I guess”. Same goes if you ask what they want for their children, β€œI don’t mind what they do as long as they are happy”. You’d be better off wishing that you or your children could be astronauts or brain surgeons – at least you’re in with a sporting chance then. You can train. They can qualify.

Happiness is such an illusory thing that spending too much time chasing it is not very worthwhile. Happiness is one end of a spectrum – misery being the other end. It is a state of extreme, just as misery represents the other end. If you check back at the times in your life when you’ve been happy – or thought you might have been – I’ll bet there were extreme things involved. The birth of a child? Excitement yes. Wonder yes. Relief at successful birth. Yes. But happiness? I’m not sure.

People think they’ll be happy on holiday when they mean relaxed or stimulated or freed from their cares – and indeed they are. Aiming for happiness is one of those β€œbigger is best” things. You’re never going to make it because there is no top limit. You just have to go on aiming for even bigger all the time. Instead of aiming happy, it’s better to aim for contentment. Now that’s attainable. Now that’s a worthy goal.

This applies especially to relationships – both to the quest to find Mr or Mrs Right and in what happens when you do. Most of us want to fall madly head-over-heels in love. Big chemistry – fireworks, butterflies, unbelievable feelings. It’s brilliant. It’s extreme. But that intensity can’t and won’t last. You have to go back to reality sometime. You have to get on with your life. No one can live at that intensity, that lofty attitude all the time. Contentment is what you hope for after the elation has worn off and you settle back into a relaxed and happy simplicity. In fact, contentment is the worthier aim because it lasts.

And so if you find you are with somebody where there is no big fireworks display, palpitations and extreme of feelings but there is a baseline contentment and warmth and love – be happy with that.


If a Buddhist monk or a Catholic priest approaches me to pitch their version of happiness exemplified by the way they live their lives – they win. I cannot pretty much argue with theological reasoning of folks who live sacrificially to attain a higher level of happiness. But I’m not them and they’re not me and we must not compare apples to oranges.

People have varying beliefs and opinions of where true happiness come from. Some of us are in an incessant quest for money because it begets power and consequently fame. The problem with material happiness is it behaves like a drug, You need a constant dose of it to enjoy the high. The new things we acquire , be it a car, a house a new computer becomes obsolete rather quickly. The things we use to be giddy about becomes boring after a while and then comes the unstoppable urge to change, add, modify or upgrade so we can get that feeling of excitement again. I went on a cruise and vacation with my family last winter only to find out on my return to the office that the pressure of work is still the same – as shitty as ever. I don’t seem to be happy as I was working in this job anymore. This phenomenon is also true with relationships. Over a period of time our partners become boring and unattractive as the aging process takes its toll on the body. Does it mean we have to change our partners once the sparks, the bells and whistles die down?

I am reminded of the story a friend told me about his acquaintance, a man who rode the dot com bandwagon at crest of its success. The company he founded hit pay dirt and made him a millionaire many times over. Despite his tremendous success and wealth, his parents continued to live in their modest bungalow, refusing his offer to move them to a much bigger home. The parents were retired folks who lived comfortably on their pensions and the modest wealth they accumulated in their working years. An offer for a limo ride to a restaurant on their annual wedding anniversary and a free cruise once a year are about the only things they would accept from their wealthy son. The parents are clearly contented with what they have in life and didn’t need anything from anyone.

I do agree that religious teachings can knuckle us down and help filter our thoughts and emotions, provide us a much needed dose of a reality check and make us understand of things that count and those that don’t. In short, the combination of our experiences and religious beliefs work hand in hand to help us understand the meaning of contentment. I believe that contentment is the magic formula of life I need to learn, if only to avoid the frustration of finding “happiness”.


32 Responses

  1. This is a very philosophical post BW. Oh, this is not plagiarism at all. In fact, it is good to discuss and share what you have read about so that we could also pick up something from it. Also, you are inputting your take on the issues from the book.

    Anyway, contentment is probably easier for those who wish simple lives. Loving what you do, loving your family and friends, and no stress. Sounds easy… but I get stressed just thinking about it… haha! πŸ™‚

  2. Toe – true. Contentment is easy for those who live simple, uncomplicated lives since their options aren’t as many like ours hehe πŸ™‚

    Talking about stress, I am told of a friend about a colleague who hasn’t taken a vacation in 10 years. The man needs a double job to keep up with maintaining a large house and two luxury cars. Tough to figure out if he is contended with his hectic job life – who knows, maybe he is πŸ™‚

  3. I once spoke to a guy (i forgot if he is a christian or a buddhist) and he asked me a question. Which do you prefer, being happy or being joyful?

    So, I asked what is the difference. He told me, being happy is skin-deep, being joyful is beyond happy, it extends to the soul.

    What do you think of warren buffet? He is the number 2 richest man on earth yet he lives a simple/modest life, then and now.

  4. Thanks for sharing this “very philosophical post”(Toe)..bro! Gusto ko yung parte na… “This phenomenon is also true with relationships. Over a period of time our partners become boring and unattractive as the aging process takes its toll on the body. Does it mean we have to change our partners once the sparks, the bells and whistles die down?”….Hmmmn? Puwede palitan pag law-law at iba na ang amoy! op kors vice-versa ito di ba?

    Simple living lang para sa akin para walang masyadong stress sa buhay. being an old hippie, sinusunod ko yung “Desiderata” ni Max Ehrmann, kasi sa palagay ko magandang guide sa buhay ng tao ang mga sinabi niya duon. Ito pa ang iba dahil believer din naman ako…”I asked for prosperity….and God gave me Brain and Brawn to work with….I asked for favors….and God gave me opportunities….I received nothing I wanted; I received everything I needed. Te amo gid na iya ang pangabuhi, basta ma-ayo ka lang mag-bato sa mga mala-in nga mga pagka-butang…ma-ayo lang pirmi ang pa-minsar mo!

  5. The word “contentment” sounds too much like “settling”, like giving up in the pursuit of happiness. I like the pursuit of happiness better than the pursuit of contentment. I don’t think happiness is a state of extreme at all. Maybe it’s just semantics. As far as relationships go, there doesn’t have to be “big chemistry”, but there has to be SOME chemistry, at least. It’s not all about chemistry, but it’s definitely part of it. Anyway, what do I know? I’m still single. hehe.

  6. MyePinoy – the difference between happy and joyful, now that’s deep bro πŸ™‚ As for Warren Buffet, he does seem to live a simple lifestyle and does not use his immense wealth to achieve political power.

  7. Noypetes,

    ” Hmmmn? Puwede palitan pag law-law at iba na ang amoy! op kors vice-versa ito di ba? “

    This could be one of those times when giving up could mean happiness and contentment hahaha πŸ™‚

    Simple living is could be less stressful indeed. Less worry means more contentment it seems.

  8. Wil – it’s not quite giving up I think but simply slowing down and focusing more on enjoying what you have. As for the chemistry – it’s a must between partners I think even if it is not as intense as before but if it’s no longer there, then the relationship would be in peril 😦

  9. Well, I might surprise you but in general I am happy. I feel good and I think life can’t be any better for me. I achieved anything I wanted in life (I probably didn’t aimed very high). I have a good wife, a wonderful kid, no financial problems, we are all healthy, etc.
    I am not jealous because my neighbor has a bigger car, a more expensive camera, etc.
    Of course life wasn’t that sweet all the time. Got problems in school, lost both my parents, did some mistakes but all by all I am a lucky guy.
    I just hope that I will remain in this “state of sweet happiness” for a very long time.
    But I also understand that to be happy I should not start worrying about the future. Carpe Diem.
    (I know it is not nice to brag about ones happiness but then I can’t say I am unhappy.)

  10. Sidney – great to hear that and I’m happy for you πŸ™‚ When that when you are in a stage where you are not too concerned of what your neighbor has in his garage ( same with me – I couldn’t care less hehe :), it means you are contented with your own life. Could I say then that your “state of sweet happiness” could be contentment?

    This last weekend without any agenda in mind I drove around with my wife and daughter and went to a couple of towns up north, went swimming at a public beach and checked in at an inn overnight. The following day we went to the town’s park by the lake, walked around and the weather was excellent. Nothing spectacular really but just enjoying the very simple, ordinary things in life is so exhilirating and uplifting. The weekend was my brief moment of contentment hehe πŸ™‚

  11. As for me, I believe happiness is a decision. You decide to be happy no matter the circumstances surrounding your life.

  12. you are merely quoting them, and offer your commentary. that is not plagiarism. πŸ™‚

    well, our equation of happiness to material things can’t be avoided because it paves way to things that make us happy.

    however, as one grows older, priorities change. it’s a different kind, therefore a different level of happiness.:)

    happiness comes in many forms. and you are right. whatever is good for you may not be for another. πŸ™‚

  13. i forgot something.:)

    i feel sad for people who say that their partner is boring already. i think the relationship hasn’t matured, hasn’t reached a level when both are comfortable of their sagging bodies. a time when there is more of the other than mere physical attributes.

    i wouldn’t say that we don’t long for younger, beautiful days of our youth but we must be realistic that we age. until such time that people are comfortable with that or could accept that truth, then they are merely in still in ‘search’ when to accept the truth.

    it takes a different level of maturity to deal with aging both for oneself and your partner. the earlier we accept things, the better way we see where we are heading. not always changing partners when their skin starts to crease or they don’t have that spark anymore. i think people in this stage needs counselling…lol.

  14. Abaniko – true. The pursuit of happiness and attaining it has nothing to do with the circumstances surrounding one’s life. I am reminded of Michael Douglas who had to part with $50M in a divorce settlement so he can marry Catherine Zeta Jones. I hope Michael is contented with his multi-million dollar acquisition hehe πŸ™‚

  15. Ipanema – I a little scared that I might blog all the rules in the book and people won’t buy the book anymore hehe πŸ™‚

    Agree that as person grows older the pursuit of happiness or contentment changes in priority. Heck when I was 20, I didn’t care much or wasn’t conscious of the pursuit of contentment. I was just excited to explore the world πŸ™‚

    I agree that the effect of aging is not the main reason why people break up. As long as the chemistry or the “soulmate” factor is strong, the relationship will last a lifetime. However it is also know fact that people lose their sexual drive when they grow older and this is a major cause of breakups. Now they say that it is always better for a man to marry someone younger than him because women lose their sex drive faster than men . They say the younger, the better hehe πŸ™‚

  16. Reminds me of something I read a long time ago:

    “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Patience I guess, is one virtue that is the key to contentment…

    Have a great weekend, bro. πŸ™‚

  17. uhhmm daw wala ko may mahambal…pamatyagan ko daw para sa akon entry mo Big Bro or basi assuming lang ko hehe

    siguro phase lang ni…kun pinsarun ko gid okay man ko…I mean I’m better off compared to a lot of people pero di ko ka tiende why I feel like I’m in a slump. Kinanglan ko bla mag bakasyon? Kinanglan ko bla mag muni-muni? Mag change environment? Everyday ginatry ko gid na…everyday gina try ko gid mangin positive and it sucks kay ngaa it takes a lot of effort when before super positive man ko nga tawo? hayy

    nwei it will pass…it should.

  18. Sgnl – that’s a very nice quote bro and so very true. There’s no guarantee you’ll find happiness no matter how you chase it!

    I’m adding this in my quote document ( I have one I always update with good ones I happen to read – seriously) πŸ™‚

    Have a nice weekend too πŸ™‚

  19. Vernsky,

    You are the first 20+ year old who responded and to be honest, I thought this post of mine is for the gurangs only hehe πŸ™‚

    This is of course not saying that Rule 65 isn’t for you. I think Rule 65 has some wisdom in what contentment means that we all can benefit, young and old alike.

    At your age you are pretty much in the stage of exploring your world and the harsh reality is results don’t always match our expectations. But as Buddah says – “the greatest prayer is patience”.

    I can also say that our society back in Pinas pressures young people too much to achieve this and that at a certain age in their lives. I don’t think it is fair to set a time limit for someone to say marry and have a family. You probably should move to Canada where the average age of women marrying is 33 hehe πŸ™‚

  20. if only it’s that easy then siguro kagapon pa ko ara sa Canada hehe

    anyway maybe because I’m single that’s why people always tend to think that my problem is the lack of someone..hayyy..but it’s really not. I believe I’m still young to think about it and actually I do want to get married at the age of 29 or 30…biskan pa gani hasta 35, I am okay with the thought. I’m not scared of being single at my age now. That is like the least of my priority gid.

    I just really want to get out of here and start anew…being contented is in a way liking what you have right now, right? but how can you like something you don’t like? uhhmmmm why don’t you give me a job na lang there hehe kidding πŸ™‚

  21. honestly, when i pray i don’t pray for happiness.. i pray for fulfillment. lalo na when i look for a new job πŸ™‚

  22. Verns – I was just like you too when I was younger but things will fall into place as long as you persevere. Good that you’re not pressured to get hitched before turning 30 πŸ™‚

    Pinas is still too traditional in my opinion. Our program of life is school, work , marriage and
    ( many ) kids hehe πŸ™‚ Here people have many options. Marriage comes last and sometimes kids don’t come into the picture and sometimes on purpose. I’m not saying it’s ideal but life is supposed to be lived to fullfill one’s ambition and not simply to adhere to societal expectations.

    I only paid $102 dollars for my immigrant visa. Now you pay that amount to get a multiple entry tourist visa. It’s a shame how things have changed so dramatically. Finding you a job is not that difficult but you got to be here and that’s the problem – how to get here.

    Anyways, this is something we can certainly take offline. I might join your eyeball meeting in Feb or Mar /08 hehe. Hope it happens! πŸ™‚

  23. The pursuit of Happyness… often times turns into a frustrating endeavor.

    That’s a very nice entry from Rules of Life. It’s similar to the concept of ideals on what I read before. Ideals are like stars, you can’t reach them but it serves as a guiding light. Aiming for a higher goal is more fruitful than aiming for that general happiness.

  24. Tin-tin …I can understand. There was a time, many years ago, I got a serious job offer that I can’t seem to resist. I was in Vancouver at that time doing a project so I drove for about an hour to the mountains, parked the car near a spot where people parked to get a view of the sea. I climed up to a huge boulder and stayed for about an hour meditating whether I should stay or go.

    Then a voice from the wilderness told me that I must go and make the money and I did not look back hehe:) I did seek supernatural help to make up my mind but I did not recall specifically asking to be happy πŸ™‚ It turned out that it was the best decision I made which made me happy ultimately πŸ™‚

  25. Ferdz- absolutely. Aiming for something you desire to achive is certainly better than pursuing “happiness”.

    There also a quote that is very high in my list . It says ” the grand essentials of life are – something to do, something to love and something to hope for”. I think it is the recipe for contentment πŸ™‚

  26. Verns – how to get here.. should have read ” how to get here legally” (as an immigrant) hehe πŸ™‚

  27. time flies, before we know it 2008 na….looking forward to meeting you πŸ™‚

    yeah so much has changed..it’s frustrating. It takes a lot of patience and money…but who knows πŸ™‚ cge tani makakit anay ta..medyo wala gid ko abe may nabal-an sa mga amo na..hasta lang sa plano so it would be nice nga may makabulig biskan sa pagtudlo lang kung paano πŸ™‚

    anyway the pressure from the “society” doesn’t affect me really. Everytime I go home sa La Castellana baw ang mga titas and titos amo gid na ang pamangkut “teh san o ka mapakasal”…hayyy life is difficult. Marriage is a big thing and I am so far from being ready πŸ™‚

    yep..someday soon everything will fall into place. thanks big bro…nice to communicate with somebody older about stuff like this kahit online lang πŸ™‚ felt a lot better..happy weekend.

  28. Happiness in itself is difficult to define.

    It has too many variables, like a difficult algebraic problem… and I hate algebra. =)

  29. im like that too, bw. there are times when we just have the compulsion to write and all these ideas popping our of our brains. just dont limit yourself, do what makes you happy. just write and write till we’re all drained out, right?

    i really liked youe entry, it’s both inspiring and sort of ‘eye opening’. thanks for sharing!

  30. happiness and contentment are both intangible but i think the difference is contentment can be measured easily (with a performance indicator) while happiness varies from one person to another on different degrees.

    i remember a saying that says ‘one can’t buy happiness’ and for me it is very true.

    as to happiness with somebody you love – it is more than the sparks and the elation that goes with it. happiness with someone you love through the years is a deeper feeling that cannot be defined. it can be perceived, believed, or cherished, but never measured by the tangibility of things.

  31. Vernsky – yes – 2008 is just around the corner. Malapit na ang Xmas and Feb 08 is barely 5 months from now !

  32. Bing – yes, you can’t buy happiness and this defines its illusory charateristic πŸ™‚ The deeper feeling you refer to I guess is being a soulmate, partner, confidant and such a relationship isn’t merely bounded only by physical attributes πŸ™‚

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