I have a hard time being content. It seems like no matter how much I have or how great of a situation I’m in I can find a way to wish I had more or wonder if there is a way to make my circumstances even better.
I’m very privileged to get to spend a couple of weeks in Hawaii each year for work but for some reason this tendency seems to rare its ugly head while I’m there. I realize how absurd that sounds but that is the point of this post so hang with me.
It happened on a Sunday afternoon on my most recent trip. I was staying at an incredible hotel with beautiful grounds – pool, beach, etc. – if any of my bosses are reading this we got an excellence group rate through the college fair 🙂 I had to check out at noon but my flight to the next island wasn’t until 6pm.
I had a choice to make, hang out at the hotel enjoying to pool and beach or go explore another part of the island I hadn’t seen before and find a new place to hang out. It was a hard decision. I don’t get that much free time when I travel for work so I wanted to make those most of those few hours of down time.
In the end, after more deliberation than probably was necessary, I decided I had spent enough time at the hotel and set out to explore.
I drove down the coast, stopping at several places; each time deciding to press on convinced there would be something better down the road. After about an hour of driving and not finding a place even close to as nice as my hotel, I realized if I kept on going I might spend the entire time looking for the perfect location and completely miss out on getting to relax.
Realizing how ridiculous that would be I decided to stop at the next place I came to. It was a small park right next to the ocean with very little beach but a nice grassy area and benches to sit on. It wasn’t ideal but it would work. At first I was bummed that I hadn’t found a better spot and was tempted to keep looking but I forced myself to stay put.
I sat there for a while and eventually something pretty incredible happened. Because I slowed down I had time to reflect and remember that Hawaii was all around me. No matter where I went I was still on a beautiful island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I had gotten caught up trying to find the perfect place and lost track of how lucky I was just to be in there.
Then, as the sound of the waves crashing on the shore reached my ears and the warm air and cool breeze kissed my skin, my mind finally slowed down and I was lulled into a very peaceful state of relaxation. In fact, the hour or so I spent at that park ended up being one of the most peaceful times on my trip.
I’ve had experiences like this before but I guess I’m a slow learner. What this time reminded me is that contentment has very little to do with our circumstances. Instead, like so many other of life’s gifts, it is a choice and can be cultivated anywhere. We can be an incredible place like Hawaii and still chose to let ourselves be discontent, or, we can take inventory of what is around us and choose to be grateful.
I’m discovering that rather than chasing it, you have to slow down and let Hawaii wash over you. That is where its essence is found. I think the same lesson applies to contentment. We have to stop chasing what we think will make us happy and slow down and appreciate where we are and what we have.
For me it is a conscious practice and I have to keep working at it. Obviously this story illustrates that sometimes I’m better at it than others but I’m discovering that it gets easier all of the time.
The more we practice and the more we slow down the more we’ll recognize the goodness all around us and how many reasons we have to be content no matter where we are.