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Contentment Vs. Ambition: Does one really have to be sacrificed for the other

Contentment is defined in most dictionaries as the feeling of being happy and satisfied, because you have everything you need. According to Gary Reker in his 2012 publication titled “Happiness: Habits of Contentment”, he explained that true happiness is a by-product of finding meaning and purpose in your life.

Essentially, happiness is an integral function of contentment; feeling satisfied with what you have of life (as well as what you don’t have). Finding meaning and purpose in your life depends largely on quite a number of factors that make your early life experiences, leading you towards a particular direction with specific definition to certain phenomenon; including but not limited to successful living and accomplishment. Hence, you tend to feel that you are finally living for your purpose and making meaning with your existence only when you have been able to achieve those things you have been conditioned to believe you need to achieve before you can be identified as a successful person (which of course is usually relative). As such, only the achievement of these things helps you to feel the sense of self-worth which in turn translates into happiness from being contented.

It is true that we cannot always have just what we want how we want and exactly when we want; life is full of ups and downs after all.

Whilst it is essential for us to feel grateful and satisfied with just as much of what we have and who we are at the present, it remains important that we continue to pursue our dreams and reach for greater heights by all permissible (legal) means possible. We all have a picture of our ideal life (who we want to be) which usually has varying levels of incongruence with our reality (who we are), and having contentment definitely does not mean that we do not reach for greater heights. Rather, it is saying that: whilst we stay happy with what we have, we should keep trying and keep believing, that it will happen someday!

In trying to answer the question “Does being content about life make you less ambitious?” posted on quora.com on 3rd September, 2016, various individuals had different answers as they felt it applied to them, two of which I find most compelling as they stand on opposite ends are:

Soham Soumya Sarkar: I do feel that being content about life makes one less ambitious or rather spoils our chances of achieving the most out of our potential. The reason I feel so is because I have not known anyone personally (myself included) who is content with life and still aims sky high…

Kalyani Barman: Nope. On the contrary, being content fuels positive ambition. Contentment is like still clear water which runs deep; the kind of water where can see things at the deep end from the surface. You can pay attention to all the little details in your life and observe the root causes of your happiness and unhappiness. When you identify these causes, you can make changes in your life for the better; and that is what fuels positive ambition.

In another very fine and honest submission, Sanika Sathe states that “it depends on how you take it… these days there is no line between ambitions and greed. If ambition affects your mental peace and health, it is better to be content.

Yes, those expressions primarily summarize all of the opinions that we may gather on the topic, and like the last person said it, it is dependent on how you take it either ways. We really cannot deny that we need contentment in order to be happy with our lives, as ambitions keep pushing us towards doing and achieving more till we can’t help the greed that keeps growing, such that we are never satisfied or even feel the slightest bit of “fulfillment” however much we eventually accomplish; and that is never the true essence of life. On the other firmer ground, when one is able to arrive at that feeling of contentment, where they are no longer in a competition with the world around them, and instead feel motivated towards defeating who they previously were, they are able to handle both contentment and ambition on moderate levels. They are able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and set up realistic goals for themselves, and beyond that, they are able to feel good about having tried at all as opposed to wallowing in the pit of disappointment and failure for a very long time should they heap all of their happiness on “how much they are able to achieve”. This is something we can all relate to: the higher the expectations, the harder the disappointment. And, the more the win, the more the hunger for more wins!

Contentment helps us to keep our situations in moderation; neither being too lax nor too strict as occupying the two extreme ends of the pole. It is helping us to, whilst shooting out shots and aiming for the bird in the bush, keeping secure with all gladness the one we have in hand!

Contentment isn’t lack of ambition; let us get that fact straight. An author once wrote: it is best to be contented with whatever little we had, while at the same time, work really hard to improve our lot!

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