Monday, December 5, 2011

Contentment vs. Happiness

Some people despise exercise. It is an unpleasant thought, and an irritating process. I have never felt this way. It has always been something I have found interesting. Growing up, I was never athletic. I didn’t play on sports teams, and I wasn’t very active. But, one day in high school, my life changed. Exercise became an escape, a release for me. It helped me to channel my stress, organize my thoughts, and improve my self-image. Was I a bit obsessive at times…absolutely! Was I doing it for the wrong reasons…sometimes. But, I can honestly say it improved my quality of life. I needed to push myself and be in control of my body. Exercise was the best way to fulfill those needs.

My outlook on exercise has not changed. In fact, I think I have become more adamant about doing it over time. I still enjoy it, and cannot live without it. When I do not get the chance to work out, I’m cranky and uncomfortable. I feel better, work harder, and love more when I’m taking care of myself, and that includes exercise. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my abilities, my strengths, and my weaknesses through fitness. I’ve pushed myself in ways I never thought possible.

I started training for a marathon in May. I have always been a runner, but the increase in running called for cross training. I took up yoga, and it changed me for the better. Now, in recovery from my marathon, it has only become that much more vital.
One of my favorite things about exercise is the opportunity it gives me to think. I do not have much downtime in my world. I’m always busy and going from one place to another. When I get home, I’m too tired to reflect on my day. My time exercising is when I do that. Yoga is the best place for deep thinking.

Today, my instructor said something that really summed up something that has been on my mind for a while. Her comment was something along these lines;

“We get so caught up in being happy. We keep telling ourselves if ‘this’ happens, we’ll be happy….if ‘that’ works out, then we’ll be content. And yet, we never are. Maybe, the problem lies in our way of thinking. Maybe, if we change our way of thinking, we’ll find happiness. Instead, we should take the outlook that we are content where we are, as we are. Then, we will attract happiness and our outlook will become our being.” Ok, maybe this is too “yogi” for you, but it falls right in line with what I have been thinking about.

For as long as I can remember, I have been future oriented. I’ve always looked forward to the next stage in life, and have neglected to make the most of many experiences just waiting for the possibility of tomorrow. It was a year ago that I remember consciously deciding to change that. I made an effort, daily, to enjoy every experience; to appreciate every opportunity. I put more value in my relationships, gave more time, and took time for myself. I have continued to do so, and for the first time, I think I am truly content. I love my work, enjoy my freedom, and have a balance in work and play. I am feeling better than I ever have and I have a passion for life no one can take away. I am living for these moments. I still have a plan, hopes, and dreams, but these moments are being cherished in the process.

Guilty, guilty, guilty!!
I started my first official job post college graduation in August. It has been most exciting, fulfilling, and wonderful. I have felt every possible emotion over the past few months. I am right where I am meant to be, and I wouldn’t trade these days for anything. But, not everyone my age feels that way about their jobs. It doesn’t seem to matter in which field we work; there are always feelings of frustration that cloud our perspective.

I have had many discussions about happiness lately. I’m not really sure any of us knows what happiness really is. We have all these notions that it is wondrous, yet no one seems to really know what it feels like. So, why do we want it so badly? What do we have to gain from it?

I think the point of my instructor’s comment is that shooting for such an unattainable prize will disappoint us over and over again. Instead, we should live in the positive. We should look at what we do have, what is fulfilling us, and things will come together in time. We must realize that happiness is not a rite of passage…it is part of the ebbs and flows of life. When we least expect it, we will be surprised if we are in the right mindset. But, if we focus only on the possibility of this perfect happiness, we will miss all the imperfect replicas in our midst.

Enjoy life for where you are with whom you are with. Cherish the victories and the road blocks. Set your sights high, but leave room for failure. Life will amaze you with all the opportunities it holds if you let it. One day you may wake up somewhere different than you ever dreamed. We get one shot at this life…spend it wisely!