Let’s think for a moment about the last time each of us experienced pure contentment in our lives. Chances are, scenes from our respective “highlight reels” are materializing: laughing with friends at last week’s beach bonfire, journaling while watching the sunset, waking up to a kind text this morning…

What about the moments in between, though? Are those marked with the same contentment? Or… complacence?

There’s a fine line between the two, and it’s one worth evaluating. A content life is the one we strive for, of course. It is one filled not just with happiness, but with a sense of peace and satisfaction stemming from our acceptance of ourselves and our present life. A complacent life, on the other hand, is one in which we find ourselves settling for less-than-ideal circumstances out of resignation, discomfort, or even just laziness.

The two sound different enough, but it can still be difficult to distinguish between them sometimes. Learning how both reveal themselves in our lives, though, can help us learn to be more content while avoiding complacence.


Here are a few things to watch for:

What Does Your Self-Talk Sound Like?

The manner in which we talk to ourselves can reveal a lot about our dispositions. Do we find ourselves using phrases that express gratitude, hope and fulfillment (e.g. I’m grateful to be alive this morning or All is as it should be)? Or, is our language more wistful and acquiescent (e.g. Maybe someday or I’ll get around to it eventually)? If we find ourselves making excuses for our circumstances on a regular basis, then it could indicate that we’re not making the most of what we have and we’re OK with that — a sign of complacence. The next time we catch ourselves thinking like this, let’s remember what we’re grateful and hopeful for instead.

What Do Your Goals Look Like?

If we don’t have a general timeline or plan for our goals — or don’t have goals at all — then we might be letting complacence silence our dreams. It’s possible to be content while also embracing change and seeking betterment. In fact, people who are content work hard to achieve their goals and take an active approach to creating their desired lives. When we let ourselves slip into complacence, however, we’ll find our lives resting at more of a stand-still. A simple solution to this state is just taking time to bask in the possibilities that life offers us and jotting down the dreams we have for ourselves.

No matter what our aspirations are — whether we’ve been wanting to take the plunge and start our own business or just want to improve our cooking skills at home — we can take steps to achieve them after we pinpoint and remove the root cause of what’s keeping us complacent. Perhaps it’s fear, low self-confidence, lack of support or a hectic schedule holding us back. Once we determine whatever it is, we can create concrete habits to overcome them, such as setting up a coffee date with a mentor each week or reconstructing our schedules to make room for something new.

It’s possible to be content while also embracing change and seeking betterment.

How Often Do You Challenge Yourself?

Are we comfortable being uncomfortable? Or do we avoid discomfort – even if it would promote positive growth? Comfort breeds complacence. Accepting challenges and attending to our mental, physical, and spiritual health, however, fosters satisfaction and contentment. So the next time a friend invites us to karaoke or to a new fitness class or something else outside our comfort zone, consider going! We’ll never push ourselves out of our complacence if we don’t expand our limits.

And remember, if we find ourselves leaning more toward complacence than contentment after looking at these questions, it’s OK. Sometimes just becoming more aware of our dispositions and mindset is the exact thing we need to spark small changes toward a happier, more content life. Let us strive to be grateful for where we are in the present while investing in ourselves and our dreams for the future.

Do you lean more towards contentment or complacence? What changes could you make to foster more contentment?

Images via Liz Wang



  1. No goals…this is really churning up some thinking. I thought I was just fine, maybe I over-zenned and put myself into deep apathy. Thanks for this!

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