A Tenuous Contentment
It’s been almost two months now since I quit my corporate job and started working in earnest on my own business. The last two months have been very fulfilling: working on the boat, building websites, and educating small business owners. My work has never felt so engaging, meaningful, and pleasurable.
This is what I’ve never had in my life. I’ve never felt content with my situation in life. In one way or another, there was some part of my life that I felt was intolerable. But living on a boat, being close to the islands, doing meaningful work, and setting my own schedule; that is a scenario where I can be content.
Notice I didn’t mention anything about money? I don’t need much money to be content. As long as the basic needs are taken care of, I only need those above four things to be happy.I love building websites and I love helping small business owners. The life of a small business owner is incredibly stressful. You have to have some serious emotional control to be a successful small business owner. I’ve been in those shoes. I lived through the agonizing death of two of my own businesses. That’s why I have so much respect for them.
And yet… there is money to consider. It’s almost June and the house still hasn’t sold. Our financial plans are officially off-track already. The small part of my brain that still represents the financially-savvy, fiducially-responsible self is freaking out right now.
But there is a bigger part of my brain: the day-to-day part, that is incredibly content and happy with this lifestyle. Downsizing my ‘stuff’, shrinking my world down to electric bicycle distance, focusing on meaningful work at the expense of reliable, highly-paid work, walking to the beach several times a day, spending time with my dog, picking my own vegetables, cooking my own, fresh food… That part me? That part of me is very happy with where I’m at in life. That part makes the other part a lot quieter.One of my favorite philosophers, Charles Eisenstein, just wrote a new article that spoke to the chapter in his book on right livelihood. This idea is sort of along the lines of: if your desire is to leave the world better off than you found it, and even if you think a single person living an alternative lifestyle is insignificant, do it anyways. Living true to your values, and in a way that does not harm your environment, will bring you much greater satisfaction than living a lifestyle motivated by money. Your motivation should be your happiness. Once basic needs are achieved, actions motivated by happiness can be quite different from action motivated by money.
The book, Twelve by Twelve, has a great chapter called the elusive contours of enough, which speaks to much the same thing. Its underlying theme discusses how important it is to find out what contentment means to you and what scenarios you can imagine being content. Achieving contentment in life should be a major goal in our lives.
The contentment I’ve achieved in the last two months is tenuous, but it is deep and authentic. Success and sustainability is still uncertain, but my experiment in voluntary simplicity is bearing fruit.