Why Contentment is Not a Threat to your Future

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I read an article entitled “How Your Contentment is Killing Your Future“recently. The post challenged the motivation of the minimalism movement and, if I’m honest, left me feeling a little defensive. The heart of the article is for people to discover their purpose, and this is a noble effort. Yet I wanted to set the record straight on a few points. 🙂

Is contentment a threat?

The article basically asks if our pursuit of less—a smaller life, as we like to call it—is causing us to settle for a mediocre, unremarkable existence. This question ruffled my feathers, but it is worth pondering for all of us who choose this path of mindful moderation.

After careful reflection, my answer to the author, and perhaps my encouragement to you, dear friend, is no. Unmistakably, living small results in a life of awareness, purpose and clarity. Let me back up and explain my reasoning.

Contentment is not the same thing as settling for less

Contentment in circumstances can be misconstrued as settling for mediocre. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I agree with the following statement: “Contentment doesn’t mean we shouldn’t desire more, it means we’re thankful for what we have and patient for what’s next.” –Dale Partridge

Contentment has served me well as I’ve been frustrated with life circumstances over the years. I’ve learned how to stay content when my circumstances were less than ideal. I’ve learned the fastest ways to kill contentment. I’ve wrestled with what it looks like to remain content when I truly, deeply yearn for more. Truly there is nothing bad to be said about contentment. But settling for a moderate life out of fearful reasons or laziness? That would be tragic. Living small is not “settling” for average. Living small is making choices on purpose to make room for extraordinary.

Living small is not “settling” for average.
Living small is making choices on purpose to make room for extraordinary.

That doesn’t mean we’ve made it. Dan and I have unrealized dreams and desires. We could spiral into swamp-green unhappiness pretty quickly if we allowed ourselves to dwell on what we want or on the abundance that others clearly enjoy. But our story isn’t over yet. Neither is yours. Your reality probably doesn’t match up with your wildest dreams. I’d argue that not only is that okay, that’s normal.

But the reality-dream gap doesn’t give us a ticket to throw our hands up and stop striving to make a difference. Oh, no. If anything, contentment allows us to take risks more freely, knowing that we can be joyful in all circumstances through Jesus Christ.  Contentment is a powerful tool which protects against apathy and bitterness, while we wait for direction and a work towards change in circumstances.

Comfort not a main priority in living with less

In many ways, living small and minimally is forgoing comfort so that our awareness will not be buried. Our lives can be more alert and outward focused when our eyes are open to the needs around us. Purposefully limiting comfort is one way to accomplish a wider vision. Having four kids in one room is not always comfortable. We have to be creative with space. Our kids must share and give grace when an upset sibling wakes them up in the wee hours. I’m not complaining; I’m simply saying that we chose to buy a house which would limit traditional American comforts because we see great benefits in living close together. Similarly, minimalism is all about letting go of the unnecessary to make room for the paramount. Living with less limits comfort in order to welcome passion.

Living with less limits comfort in order to welcome passion.

Our family has more direction and passion now, after years of learning to let go of all the comforts that may have been distracting us from our purpose.  Living with fewer comforts allows us to live with more clarity.

Contentment with “average” is severely relative

The article also suggested that choosing to live with less is resigning to an “average” life. Proper perspective reveals that he is really referring to”average” in this instance is “first-world-affluent-average”, which equals inconceivable ease and wealth compared to the rest of the world. The fact that we can choose to live small shows our actual prosperity. The fact that we are offered the decision to live beneath our means means that we are already uncommonly well-off. The fact that we can sit back and say “we have enough” means that WE HAVE ENOUGH. Compared to most of the world, the average middle-class American lives in unprecedented wealth. This knowledge awakens gratitude, compassion, and generosity in my life. The idea that we could be somehow settling for sub-par is a dangerous ingratitude of the affluence we enjoy whether we realize it or not.

Ironically, our lives feel larger, fuller, more connected and brimming with purpose since beginning to intentionally live small.

Is it possible that minimizing possessions could lead to minimizing dreams? Sure. That’s something that people will have to consider in their own hearts. Most of us who choose to live minimally would agree—living small leads to living large in all the areas that matter.

Is contentment a threat to our future? Oh, no. Contentment is the secret to a more fulfilled, more joyful, more appreciated future. 

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30 Comments
  • Aurora
    February 16, 2017

    Ugh, so many buzzwords in that piece. I simplified to make room for things that are important, for what comes next, not to stagnate. You can feel content with what you have whilst also having goals. I agree with everything you have said.

    There are a lot of these start-up culture blogs about how you can make it to the top in life, how you can be extraordinary, how you can rewrite the rules, how you are just that awesome and important you will change the world with your vision and business plan. Personally I’d much rather be this guy over Elon Musk any day:

    http://www.theonion.com/article/unambitious-loser-with-happy-fulfilling-life-still-33233

    • Evelyn
      February 17, 2017

      Hi Aurora, I’ve noticed those “start up culture” blogs too that basically promise you the world because you’re just that awesome… Haha. They clearly know me better than I know myself! 😉 Thanks for commenting!

  • Jodi
    February 16, 2017

    Your words are something I’ve been thinking about lately. Simplifying my home, my schedule, and even my relationships has left me in a very content state that at times has caused me to wonder if I have given up something I shouldn’t have. I don’t think it has though. I think I was so accustomed to clutter and busy, I have just had to get used to having only the things I love and need and truly want in my life. It’s been difficult at times, and I’m still working on it. However I have recently found a great sense of clarity in what I have and what I still want to have. Minimalism didn’t take away my dreams; it simply helped me clear away the dreams and desires that I was chasing for the wrong reasons. Now I focus on what is truly important to me and my family, and perhaps this single-minded focus is so quiet and concentrated that it looks like settling. For me it’s better.

    PS Sorry if this rambles. lol. I am mid-first cup of coffee, but your post really spoke to me and I needed to comment! <3

    • Evelyn
      February 17, 2017

      Hi Jodi! I’m so glad you chose to ramble. 😀 Your thoughts struck a chord with me too, and it is this: sometimes I second-guess my decisions, and what life looks like. Honestly? I wrestle with if we did this right or wonder if we are failing and missing something major or if we should be more minimal in many areas. So I’m grateful to know that someone out there also reflects on if we’ve given up something or maybe made a mistake. Upon seriously thinking this lifestyle over, I keep coming back to– over and over– that no, this is right for us. And more and more, I can’t deny that a more minimal life of less stuff is really the example that Christ left for us to follow! Thanks so much for your comment. Hope you get another cup of coffee! <3

  • Leli
    February 16, 2017

    “Unmistakably, living small results in a life of awareness, purpose and clarity. .” Yes you remove the junk you are set free from so much. Depression, waisted time, obstruction of beauty. We cleaned out this weekend because of your inspiration. So freeing

    • Evelyn
      February 17, 2017

      Yaaaaaay for purging! Love you friend <3

  • Tiffany@smalllifeliving
    February 16, 2017

    Love this! I don’t know what they are talking about when they say settle. I surely do not feel I have settled at all in our journey with minimalism. I love being intentional with my time and the items I have. I feel empowered to live a more free life when having less to maintain and clutter my mind. I think some people feel treated by minimalist because they feel we are saying the way they choose to live is wrong. But I don’t feel that way. Some people may enjoy having a large house and lots of things and that’s okay too. I don’t know why anyone would assume that minimalist have settled. Craziness! They obviously do not personally know any minimalist and are just making assumptions based on no facts. Thanks for sharing. Great post Evelyn.

    • Evelyn
      February 16, 2017

      Hi Tiffany, thanks for commenting! I definitely don’t feel like I’m “settling” either. If anything, I feel clearer and almost a bigger drive to strive for things that matter! 🙂

  • Daikuro @ SimplicityBlogger.com
    February 16, 2017

    Contentment is not a threat. In fact, it is a door to real happiness – not the happiness that the ego makes us believe. Usually, our egos tell us that we need more. But in reality, we already have more than what we need.

    • Evelyn
      February 16, 2017

      Thank you, Daikuro, for your feedback. I agree!

  • Dawn
    February 17, 2017

    Thank you so much for this blog. I love minimalism, it is a way of life for me for over 10 years. At the beginning it was incredibly freeing by letting go of EVERYTHING – literally.

    At first it was my choice, but then the momentum of the process left me without a job, home and car.

    It was the best thing that could’ve happened. Gradually I built my life back up in Christ. My biggest struggle was learning what a successful entrepreneur looks like in the eyes of God.

    Turns out the biggest part of my entrepreneurial skills are used for ministry.

    Recently, I felt that maybe I had chosen to “settle” for a mediocre life and a wave of insignificance came over me.

    That’s when I realized God increased and I decreased (John 3:30).

    Now, I am more secure in “small” than ever before. Even my dogs are small.

    In faith, hope and love,
    ~ Dawn

    • Evelyn
      February 17, 2017

      Oh Dawn. What an incredible story!! I love your reflection that you HAD chosen to settle, but it was for greater and more eternal purposes. That is a beautiful thought. Thank you for sharing.

  • Stephen Bell
    February 17, 2017

    I love living a simple contented life with less. My life is rich with pleasure, purpose and gratitude.
    I have not settled for anything and Im still striving for it to be even better.

    • Evelyn
      February 17, 2017

      Hi Stephen,
      Thanks so much for your perspective!

  • Cheryl@UnclutteredSimplicity.com
    February 17, 2017

    Great, now my feathers are ruffled! I read the article, and I believe what the author was trying to say is that we as Christians need to not allow our own creature comforts to dominate our lives and that we need to be willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of the Kingdom. At least, I hope that’s what he was saying! At the same time, our family has experienced more than our fair share of “driven” people mistakenly assuming we are lazy because my husband chooses not to climb the ladder at work and instead uses his free time to serve in our church, coach local kid’s sports, and spend quality time with his family. We do strive to be content where we are in a culture that says you should “have it all”. And, I am perfectly fine with that 🙂

    • Evelyn
      February 18, 2017

      Love your perspective, Cheryl! I love what you said, merely ” we need to be willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of the Kingdom.” I think that is EXACTLY the point! May we never get so comfortable that we make our contentment an idol!

  • Ellie
    February 17, 2017

    I feel like he just picked the wrong word for the entire article. Complacent would have been a better choice for the feeling he described. Complacent is … lazy? Fearful? Content is choosing to be peaceful in your heart. Not lazy.

    We get to downsize drastically this summer for an upcoming move. I am so excited! We have been dreaming of a house with some acres around, and will be living in an apartment instead. It is probably time for new furniture, but we’ll just borrow from the Army for a few years. 🙂

    • Evelyn
      February 18, 2017

      Whoa. Now that’s the truth! Good call, Ellie. I don’t think I would have been as bothered if the word “complacent” had been used. Because yes– absolutely, complacency is an enemy to growth and goodness. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • SHANNON GEURIN
    February 22, 2017

    I hear you Evelyn! And I love your perspective!!

  • Marsha
    February 22, 2017

    I love this perspective. Contentment certainly is not settling or being less than or doing less. I’ve written before that you can BE where you are, be present, while still moving forward on your journey. It’s all about pace and perspective.

    • Evelyn
      February 26, 2017

      Hi Marsha, it sounds like you understand the pull between wanting things to change and still being happily present. What a gift! I love the idea of wrapping pace into the philosophy… and perspective is so important too! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  • Liz
    February 22, 2017

    Nobody would accuse me of being on a minimalism journey at this present moment, tho I do have some aspirations to declutter my life. It’s on my vision board for 2017 in fact. But I think we have to distinguish between contentment and complacency. These are two very different attitudes. One is dangerous, while the other leads to peace. Contentment is achieved by leveraging intentional behaviors and moving toward a grateful attitude about our possessions, ourselves, and our place in life. I just had a friend guest post for my Dare to Dream series about how dreaming doesn’t mean we are discontent with our current situation, but rather how contentment with who we are could be the key to unlocking our God-given dreams. I really enjoyed your post! Blessings!

    • Evelyn
      February 26, 2017

      Hi Liz,
      thank you so much for your thoughts! I think that the different between contentment and complacency is definitely what we are batting around. Sounds like your Dare to Dream series is something I need to peruse!

  • Gail
    March 1, 2017

    Amen. 100% spot on…every thought you wrote

    • Evelyn
      March 7, 2017

      Hi Gail. Thanks for your encouragement!

  • afifahaddnan
    March 14, 2017

    I totally agree with this. So many gems in this post. I couldn’t agree more on our own free will to be .contented and not being all about getting more and more doesn’t mean we become less passionate. For me, it is the mere freedom to feel at ease and how happy it is to be truly contented and not about settling to be mediocre or average.

  • Jesse Danson
    March 28, 2017

    This post is SO, SO GOOD! As I read the beginning of the article, my mind began racing, but what would have taken me a couple hours to process is so concisely, sweetly stated in your writing. So true. Makes me happy. 🙂

    • Evelyn
      March 28, 2017

      Oh Jesse, you’re so sweet! I’m glad I saved you the processing time– our brain cells are precious! Haha. Honestly, the comments from other readers were huge in helping me continue to process. Make sure you read though those too! 🙂

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