Oftentimes, it feels like we’re encouraged to live in a state of constant discontent. We are told that there is always something missing in our lives, something more we can have, something else to aim for, something that we have to do next. In high school, we’re told to think about university; in university, we’re told to think about careers; when we start a career, we’re told to think about promotions. When single, we’re told to think of finding a significant other; when dating, we’re told to think about engagement; when engaged, we’re told to think about weddings; and almost as soon as we get married? Yup, we’re told to think about kids.
There’s of course nothing wrong about planning for the future. Quite the contrary; we should actively be engaged in shaping it. My issue is with the fact that we’re encouraged to think about the future at the expense of enjoying the present. So while a high school student should keep university in mind, he or she should at the same time enjoy every minute of being in high school—and so on, so forth.
The state of constant discontent is compounded by that of regret. When in university, we’re asked if we miss high school; when working, we’re asked if we miss our carefree university days. When married, we’re asked if we miss being single and free, while parents are asked if they miss their life before their firstborn.
Discontent and regret are intensified by a constant preoccupation about what we’re missing out on. Social media makes it particularly challenging to focus on what we’re doing instead of wondering what we’re not doing. How many times are individuals attending a certain event on their smartphones, checking up on other events happening at the same time?
This bodes the question: what should be our relationship with the past, the present, and the future? The best analogy I can think of is that of driving. You have to know where you’re going before you get into the car. While you’re driving, you keep an eye on what is behind to see if there is anything that might catch up with you; you also keep an eye on everything around you, aware that the conditions on the road are dependent on the conditions of the environment they are in. But ultimately, you’re in the present; you take into account the road signs, you acknowledge the presence of other cars, you’re aware of how your car is doing, so on, so forth.
In practice, it means that we might be better off focusing the bulk of our energy on what we are currently doing. However, we also have to remember that our present will be enriched by an awareness of the past and how we got to that point in the first place. Furthermore, our future will look even brighter as we are aware of the consequences of what we choose to do in the present.
PS: Wouldn’t “Constant Discontent” be a great name for a single?
Photo credit: Healing Thoughts Blog.
8 thoughts on “Constant Discontent: Enjoying the Now Created by Then for When’s Sake”
An excellent post. ‘Constant discontent’ reminds me of the song in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou: ‘I am a man of constant sorrow.’ Or maybe ‘He’ was a man . . .
Glad you liked the post, Rod! And yes indeed, ‘constant discontent’ does ring a lot like ‘I am a man of constant sorrow’ lol! Do you feel like you are being encouraged to live in constant discontent? And if so, how do you deal with it?
I don’t really feel that way. Don’t want much.
Hmmm I had answered this back in March but it seems the comment went into limbo! Rod, I think it’s great that you don’t feel this way What do you think differentiates the way you think from someone who is in a state of constant discontent? Maybe we can all learn from you!
How old are you? And then I guess we are all going to get there at some point 😉 Although I don’t agree, there are many older people who are quite unhappy…
I am 71.
I agree that some older people are unhappy, perhaps many if we take physical travails into account. What I meant was that I don’t suffer feelings of discontent relating to things which are available out there and I don’t have. Though the main reason I lack discontent is not wanting them anyway, which may be related more to personality than age. Take the products of the Apple Corporation, for example . . .
Ah, Apple products. Maybe it’s because you are solidly anchored in your identity? I know that it is getting easier and easier every year to be content with not having everything everyone else has. But I guess it also has to do with the fact that I fill like my life is so full with the things I have, because these things all help serve a purpose…