We all struggle with being content with what we have achieved, and yet not falling into the zone of complacency. There is always the danger that desiring to achieve more may leave you unhappy with what you have already achieved. So how does one strike that balance between contentment and ambition?
I found this excerpt from a post by James Clear very relevant, and thought you may too. In it, he quotes from the book The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey
“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”
That there, is profound! And it applies to the individual, as it applies to mentors, coaches, and parents!
As James comments ;
Ambition and contentment are not opposites, but we often make the mistake of thinking that they are incompatible. On the one hand, experts tell us that we should be mindful, focused on the present, and content with our lives regardless of the results. On the other hand, coaches and champions tell us that successful people out work everyone else, that we must never be satisfied, and that complacency is undesirable.
The rose seed, however, is both content and ambitious.”
As Gallwey says, at no point are we dissatisfied with the current state of the rose seed. It is perfectly all right at each moment. Yet, it is also incredibly ambitious. The rose seed never stops growing. It is constantly seeking to get to the next level. Every day it is moving forward, and yet, every day it is just as it should be.
Viewed from another perspective, it has to do with what is driving your ambition. As seen in the story of the rose, its ambition to grow is not driven by discontent. If discontentment or a quest for “stuff” is the motivating factor, no matter what you get or how much you get, you’re still not going to really be happy until you find contentment!
So its about becoming better while loving who you are. Its about enjoying the journey without losing sight of the destination!
Active contentment is growth.
Thanks for this nice article! Good suggestions.