The Balance Between Being Content and Striving for More

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I recently volunteered at a charity event run by a good friend of mine who’s trying to start a non-profit.  By all accounts, the event was a success and went very smoothly, but my friend felt frazzled by how much work it took to launch an organization.  She worried about not properly prioritizing her time between her family, her venture, and other commitments she had made.  Overall, she wondered if she had taken the proverbial last bite that was too much to chew.

Her problem struck a chord with me because lately, I feel I have the opposite problem.  I quit a full-time job in project management to be at home with my young children, a choice I do not regret.  But now that the kids are getting older, I have more free time, and I wonder if I’m utilizing that time well.  I have a few ambitious personal projects I’d like to take on, but I’d always avoided them due to time constraints.  Then I second-guessed myself again and wondered why I couldn’t just be content with my life as it is.

At two ends of an odd spectrum, we have being content with the life you have and wanting to achieve more.  Some people are content to be…well content.  Others love setting the next goal and never standing still.  The rest of us have to decide how to balance these two ideas.

So what is right for you?  I present some questions you can ask yourself that may help you discover where you fit on the spectrum:

Do you feel content enough?  It’s healthy to feel content with what you have on some level: content with your personality, your relationships, and your environment, to name a few.  I personally thrive on a routine that keeps me balanced, which includes set times for family.  If I didn’t feel have these predetermined commitments, I would feel incomplete regardless of any other aspects in my life.  Determining what you need to be “content enough” will give you a foundation on which you can build your other goals.

Do you feel you are pushing yourself enough? Once you have that foundation, you can determine how much more you want out of life.  If you find yourself always daydreaming about improvements in your career, learning a new skill, or spending more time on community activities, then you may need to find a way to include these in your life.  With your foundation set, you can determine which trade-offs in your life you are willing to make in order to work on these goals.

Do you even need to change at all or are you just worrying?  I could have a black belt in worrying, if such a thing existed.  More often than not, a worry is just a worry, and I have to find a healthy way to just let it go.  You can generally tell if a worry is a legitimate thing by analyzing it.  If you keep having circular arguments with yourself, chances are, it’s just a worry.  Sometimes a gut feeling can tell you that you’re just worrying.  When I can’t determine the difference, I turn to a trusted family member or friend as a sound board, someone who won’t make any decisions for me, but will help me explore the worry so I can come to the right conclusion on how to approach it.

My friend and I visited these questions in our conversation and by talking through it, came to some solid conclusions on how to move forward.  She felt she was just worrying.  I felt I needed to mix things up a bit with my current routine.  We’re both moving forward with plans to find that balance between contentment and achievement.

You may never come to the perfect conclusion, but hopefully these questions will help you find your own balance.  As life changes, you may need to revisit these questions again.  When you do, I hope you won’t worry about it, but take a good look at your life and how you can make changes (or not) to make it the best life for you.

Deborah Fike

Deborah Fike is the founder of Avalon Labs, which provides marketing consultations and writing services for start-ups and online businesses.   She carves out a significant portion of her time to raising her two young daughters.

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