Ron Blue, a successful financial coach and visionary, tells the story of a conference where he asked the participants, “How many of you are making twice as much now as you were 10 years ago?” Every hand in the audience went up. He then asked, “If 10 years ago you had been asked, would you be content if you were making twice what you are making now, would you have answered yes?” Again almost every hand in the audience went up. Finally, he asked, “And are you content now?” Almost everyone responded no.
Contentment is an illusory thing. We put off contentment as something that we will obtain at some distant point in the future. We say to ourselves: when I get a new job I will be content, or when I make this much more money, or when I get this house, car, boat, college education… the list goes on and on. And yet the more that we run, the goal line (of our own making) keeps moving away from us.
That is why I believe that contentment is not a financial destination; it is a choice that we make every day. To be sure finances play a role. How we manage our finances have a huge impact on our attitudes and our attitudes have a huge impact on how we manage our finances. And yet, there is no amount of money that will guarantee contentment. There is no formula or calculation. Contentment is a decision that each of us must make.
If being content is simply a decision, why are so few actually content? There are many reasons, but I would sum them up by saying that the decision to be content is hard. Friends, family, culture, advertisers, and even our own emotions trip us up. We all know that chocolate cake is not good for us, and yet it is hard to reach for the carrots in the fridge and pass up the cake. Similarly, it is emotionally difficult to choose contentment.
Because I meet with dozens of individuals regarding their finances each month, I have the benefit of seeing how different people find and sometimes lack contentment. While I believe that contentment is a decision, I also believe that there are some things that we can do to help make the decision a little bit easier. My list is hardly the end, but it may be the beginning of helping you choose contentment.
1. Be intentional. By making conscious decisions about where you want your money to go, you can find and enjoy the benefit of what you already have.
2. Stay out of debt. Debt makes us slaves to the payment and robs us of contentment. When you have too much debt it creates a persistent worry about paying off the debt.
3. Be thankful. Focus on what you have been given not on what you lack.
4. Be generous. Focus on others and learn to let go of what you have been given. Research consistently shows that those who give are more content. It is difficult to determine which is the cause and which is the effect. Do content people give or are giving people content? I suspect that it is more of a virtuous circle that changes our attitude when we actually give.
As we enter the next few weeks of frenzied holidays, I hope that you can find contentment. I realize that it is not easy to find, and yet in many ways, I believe that it truly can be right in front of us.
Blue, Ron. "What Does Financial Contentment Look Like?" Focus on the Family. http://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/faith-based-family-finances/gods-big-ideas-about-finances/what-does-financial-contentment-look-like