Is it possible to be happy with yourself right now and still want to change your life?
Can you be content and evolving at the same time?
I believe you can.
In fact, I think this is a powerful balance we should strive for every day — the balance between happiness in the moment and action toward the best version of ourselves.
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits recently wrote a beautiful post on contentedness. He suggests that you don’t need to wait for change, for something better, for the future, before you are content. You can be content right now if you choose to see all of the good and beauty around you.
I know this is true. I know we experience life right now, in this moment. This moment is our only reality. If right now is spent longing for some vision of the future, we haven’t truly lived and enjoyed the blessings of right now.
Longing and struggling against “what is” causes suffering. Wishing for more, for something different, for something better at the expense of contentment in the moment robs us of life.
However, as someone who is a seeker and has spent most of my life intrigued by personal development, I have a vision of the best version of myself. I know that inner and outer change, evolution, and transformation will happen to me whether or not I define how that will happen.
But I know that I can define how that will happen. I have that personal power, and I’d much rather be the creator of my life rather than a reactor to it.
So how does one be a creator and be content at the same time? How do you become the best version of yourself while loving yourself just as you are?
Here are some of the concepts I’ve embraced to help me find that critical balance between contentment with now and a vision of your best self.
With the awareness that both are possible, you reduce the tension between knowing that you should be content right now and the inner urging for something more. There is a way to find a balance for your on-going contentment and happiness.
Begin to view the process of personal evolution as place for happiness and contentment. Rather than holding back happiness while you await an outcome, enjoy the process. Every step along the path, every stage of life, every small action should be savored and celebrated. Life is process. Reaching outcomes is a fleeting moment.
During the process, you will experience tedious, boring, or even painful moments. Rather than resisting or struggling against these times, breathe into them. Shift your thinking so that you become aware of even the smallest value these moments add to your experience of life.
Failure is part of process. And even though failure stings, the venom it injects actually serves our growth. Failure means you are engaged in life because you’ve taken a risk toward your vision.
If you haven’t defined the best version of yourself, begin with values. What are the most important values in your life and work? What values will define the person you are now and want to be in the future. Get very clear on those.
Give yourself the gift of time and emotional space to create a vision for your life for the next few years. Use your most important values as a framework for this vision. Look at every aspect of your life and define how you want it to look. Write it down. And remember to enjoy the process of creating a vision. It is creative, life-affirming work.
When you have a vision for yourself, you need a plan for materializing this vision. You need action steps. Prioritize your vision and create a strategy for action. Break it down into small steps that are manageable.
A ritual is an action imbued with purpose and meaning. Each action step along the way to your vision is a microcosm of the outcome. Rather than viewing each step as a boring task, turn it into a ritual — something beautiful that is a crystalline drop of your beautiful vision.
Relationships are the most important part of our lives. Nothing matters more. Define the best version of yourself in your relationships. Who do you know yourself to be inside? How does this person want to interact with loved ones and others in your life? Find the beauty in letting this person emerge as you release anger, jealousies, frustrations, blame, and hurt. Enjoy the process of releasing the old you to welcome the real you.
Our time is limited. We can’t have everything, be everything, do everything. If we stuff our lives with too much, we are scattered and unfocused. Life is abundant, and it tempts us with so many options. Choose what is most important right now and gently release all else for another time or for good.
Whatever you are doing, focus on it. Savor it. Roll around in it. Love it. Even if it’s pain. There is beauty even in pain. Don’t struggle against or wish for something more. If you are doing it now, it is the most important thing in the world.
When you are focused, many other things in your life fall away naturally. Things you don’t really need. Begin to sweep some of these things out the door. Simplify your life, your thoughts, your relationships. Give yourself the space and energy to focus and love the moment.
Experiences almost always trump money and possessions in long-term life satisfaction. Experiences stay in your memory and create residual happy feelings. Put your efforts and income more on experiences than on things.
Give yourself a mental and physical recess, a time for play and creative introspection. Remove yourself from stresses and demands to clear your mind for new ideas, inspiration, and recharging. Being in nature supports this process.
Regardless of how analytical or brainy you may be, pay attention to intuition. Intuition arises from an accumulation of all of our memories and experiences. It has something important to say to us, so listen up.
Stretch yourself. Go a step or two farther than you think you can. Push yourself a bit into the discomfort zone. Do this regularly, and you’ll be amazed at your capacity for greatness. Breath into the stretch and enjoy it.
Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Whatever it is, put it in a red balloon and release it. Ah, freedom.
Where you are wounded, where you are hurt, where you are frightened — seek healing. Restore yourself. Get well again. Do what must be done to heal. You can’t be the best version of yourself when you are emotionally, mentally, or physically unwell.
Your body houses the best version of yourself. Your body is beautiful and miraculous. Support your body as it serves you by staying fit and healthy.
Give your body the proper fuel to feel your best so you can enjoy every moment to the fullest.
Spend a few minutes in gratitude every day. Remind yourself of even the smallest blessings in your life. Allow the emotions that accompany everything you are grateful for to rise to the surface. This will heighten your sense of gratitude and happiness.
Happiness is associated with service. Whether you are simply listening to a friend, giving a hand to a neighbor, or volunteering, serving others provides fulfillment that no other activity can afford. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just find a way to do it.
Have a beginner’s mindset in all things. Accept that even if you are an expert, there is always more to learn. You can learn from the humblest among us. You can learn new ways of thinking. You can learn to appreciate many points of view. Stay open to all possibilities with eager expectation.
Once you know the best version of yourself, seek new paths for evolving into that person. Open your mind and heart to wise people and mentors. Face the truth about yourself or others. Be relentless in your personal evolution, but relish and celebrate each new level of growth.
Regularly hit the refresh button on your definition of your best self. As we evolve, change, and grow as individuals, even our vision of our best self shifts and evolves along with us. Be content with being the best self you can be in each moment — because you will always be in the process of becoming. Make each moment your destination.
What is your best version of yourself, and how are you working to become that person? Please share your thoughts in the comments.