A couple of years ago, my friend dropped in with a proposal for a multilevel marketing scheme. “There’s a lot of money for you to make, Uday,” he said. When I politely refused, he insisted, “You should change your attitude and think positively. You can be as rich as your heart desires. Invest now and see your wealth grow beyond expectations.”

That got me thinking. Am I putting this proposal off due to my middle class background, or am I genuinely not interested? There are some people who will never know their potential until they take the decision to buy in. Then there are other people who will struggle their entire life and not reach the promise they hoped despite having bought in.

So the question remains: What made me say no? Fear? Competition? Public opinion? Past conditioning? Inability to visualize riches? Complacency or Contentment?

To distinguish complacency from contentment is never easy. A good question to ask is ‘Why is something enough?’

Complacent answers: It’s not my job, it’s not worth the effort, I’m not interested, it doesn’t matter, it can be done later, the damage can be repaired.

Content answers: I have had my fill, I deserve a break, I’m looking forward to other things, my priorities are different, I have moved on, I have nothing to prove.

Complacency vs. Contentment

The opposite of complacency is obsession. In complacency, you compromise on responsibility, while in obsession, you are hyper-responsible. Complacency is about ‘giving up.’

The opposite of contentment is discontent. Contentment helps you say ‘sufficient’, and discontent makes you says, ‘never enough’. Contentment is about ‘letting go.’

The Rubber Band Metaphor

Think of a rubber band. It can stretch a great deal, but there is a limit… a point beyond which there is breakdown.

Contentment for the rubber band is when it has exercised its potential and knows its limits. Complacency is when the rubber band thinks it has reached its full size without requiring to stretch at all. And, stretching is uncomfortable so why bother? If the rubber band is not aware of its potential, it will disown its true nature and live unfulfilled.

Contentment is not about staying where you are; rather it is about accepting your potential and having goals that stretch you to optimally perform. Stretching has to be in stages. Beyond optimal stretching, comes the stage of fatigue and beyond that is the stage of breakdown. The ability to recognize these stages and give them their due respect is wisdom.

Discontent makes us feel empty even when we are full to the brim.That is because we compare our cup to other cups and say that they are bigger. Imitate another or compete with another is a recipe for stress. Others are there only inspire you to bring forth your best. Don’t make them bring forth the worst in you!

The real race is not run against someone else; it is the race between your complacent self and your content self. If you have stretched yourself and run true to your potential, you have run a good race.

Coming back to my question…

I looked at the lives of the ‘successful’ persons obsessed with becoming rich. The only respect they got was from the people is who aspired to be like them… rich and powerful. Most importantly, money became a purpose in their lives rather than a means to the end. There was no point when they could rest and say ‘enough’.

So I asked myself…. do I need more? The answer was obvious. Yes, of course. Next, the fundamental question…. do I want to become like them? The answer was clear. “No, of course not.”

That day, I was not sure whether I was being reactive or proactive. Today, looking back, I can truly say, yes I took a good decision. I am in a race that is of my own choosing and based on my personal competence. I enjoy racing against myself in a friendly contest. And I can will full satisfaction say ‘Yes I am truly content’.

Original photo by thomashawk