The Contentment Paradox

In startups, it’s completely natural — and expected — to push ourselves to achieve more, to do more, to set stretch goals. It’s because we set the bar so high, that we, as humanity, accomplish much (we are all A-Players, after all!). It’s a true wonder and marvel for us as people.

Yet at the same time this easily breeds discontent. Setting the bar so high, we can only fulfill that so many times in a row before we fail at least a few times. If not, was it really a stretch goal? This makes us feel like failures as we miss expectations. No one wants their identity listed as “Director of Failure.”

This may drive us to seek out contentment wherever we can find it as we lay awake at night. Some people find contentment in material goods, events, people, the spiritual, or more work. Whatever the case, from a purely pragmatic vantage point, we must find contentment before we burn out, before anxiety takes over and we shrivel up and lose our joy. There’s beauty that we see each day, yet depression — or worse — can overtake us in the race to become the best.

Each of us seems to define “being content” in different ways. I have mine and you likely have yours. I have my beliefs on what lead to satisfaction and joy in life, but I hope you can find your way. However, contentment is not about being “okay” as a sloth or lacking drive or grit. You can have both drive and contentment. But it’s hard.

This is why we wrestle with — and hold in tension — the desire to accomplish more, to set new records, and yet to be content, to be fulfilled and joyous. This is paradox and one we must all continue to wrestle with. But it is a necessity: both to wrestle with and to simply find contentment.

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