Other than well known spiritual leaders, can you think of any individual (living or non-living) that has truly shaped the world we live in today that is/was content? Politicians? Great thinkers? Artists? Writers? Actors? Entertainers? Scientists? Entrepreneurs? Innovators? I know contentment is a deeply internal and subjective state, that is almost impossible to measure, but if it came down to it – I doubt any would say they were truly content for the majority of time… as probably would most of the world’s population.

What I’m getting at is: can you have vision and drive when you are content? When one reaches contentment, do they then become complacent? And, are an ongoing vision and drive determinants of success and critical for making things happen?

I know success is completely context driven, so I’ve decided to add context to my drawing… but it’s to both sides in this case, therefore I can cancel it out again. ;-)

And yes, how to find contentment is another blog post altogether, but on a whim the common elements involve long-term peace, love, prosperity, gratitude, happiness, self-satisfaction and so forth.

So, could to not be content actually a good thing?

After all, contentment itself does not make the world go around. It’s the desire and strive for contentment that does.

11 thoughts on “Does contentment equal complacent?

  1. Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy – Lao Tzu.

  2. Complacent vs Contentment: In my humblest opinion, they are just words. People have different sentiments and perception towards what those means.

    To discuss the technical, subtle and minute differences between what exactly contentment and complacent mean won’t matter and is actually quite dangerous, as there will be no end to it.

    The point is, they generally refer to the feeling of being content, and can be use in negative and positive context.

    So I’ll take one step back and look at your question instead, because I think that’s what really matters.

    >> “So, could to not be content actually a good thing?”

    I think, being content is like being full. Not being content is like being hungry.

    hunger is a natural signal to help us survive. hunger can also leads to overweight and obesity.

    So is it hunger that is dangerous, or lack of self control and awareness?

    To be content, or not to be content – this duality have many slippery slope. If we’re not dangerous, we could fall on one of this circular loop entrapment for years.

    Anyway, for the sake of discussion:

    Lack of contentment could lead to the desire to strife for a better state of life. Lack of contentment could also lead to a life of meaningless pursuit of one acquisition after another.

    Contentment could lead to peace of mind. It could also lead to stagnation.

    It’s not that whether it is good or bad, has merit or not has merit. Everything we do comes with a price. To do or not to do, to be or not to be is secondary to know or not to know.

    Personally I think that (content, or no-content) we should appreciate our current state of being. Appreciation is different from contentment. You may appreciate that you have a place to rent, but you may aspire to own your own property so that you and your family may enjoy a better life.

    At the same time we should also seek ways to grow and nourish our life. Not out of fear, or of hunger, but out of appreciation – that such good life is simply worth living.

    and always, always be mindful. Many traps lies ahead.

  3. Ah, my joyous late night crew of two! Thanks, as always, for your comments and insights. Processing (and learning) now.

    ~ A humble student.

    1. stumbled upon your blog and i just wanted to say thank you- this whole idea of contmnteent vs. compacency has been huge on my mind. this post was a great reminder, so thank you

  4. Our constant discontent is for the most part rooted in the impulse of self-preservation. This passes into a kind of selfishness, and makes a duty out of the maxim that we should always fix our minds upon what we lack, so that we may endeavour to procure it. Thus it is that we are always intent on finding out what we want, and on thinking of it; but that maxim allows us to overlook undisturbed the things which we already possess; and so, as soon as we have obtained anything, we give it much less attention than before. We seldom think of what we have, but always of what we lack.

    This maxim of egoism, which has, indeed, its advantages in procuring the means to the end in view, itself concurrently destroys the ultimate end, namely, contentment; like the bear in the fable that throws a stone at the hermit to kill the fly on his nose. We ought to wait until need and privation announce themselves, instead of looking for them. Minds that are naturally content do this, while hypochondrists do the reverse.

    Arthur Schopenhauer.

  5. Lao Tzu and Schopenhauer are two of my favourite thinkers. Kant talks about contentment as well but Ive not studied him as much as Id like.

  6. Andrew,

    As someone who’s read more of Kant than most, I find he talks around topics far more than engaging in them.

    Your first Lao Tzu quote, to me, nails this post beautifully.

    I wonder how Lao Tzu felt as he wrote that. Contented, Complacent, or perhaps, Option C ;)

    Kate: Thanks for the thought provoking post. I’m stuck on Lao Tzu’s reply still :)



  7. I agree with Wade on this one – the Tzu quote talks most to me. But I also like the analogy of contentment being similar to hunger – being content is a frame of mind. It’s a state of being, and something which is not a destination but more a method for getting there. You can be content, as yet still determined and visionary. As always, #bothand applies.

    I would argue, the types of people who have changed the course of human history and shapped the planet as we observe it now, would have been UNconteny had they not acted.

    Thanks for the post – surely, a topic for our next chat!

  8. From clarity and deep awareness rises action. One can honour the subsequent realisations or not. There is choice and self-determination. There can be a striving, attachment and desire. There can be action and inaction.


    What is self?

  9. Complacency seems to be the odd one out. As Donal’s said, what is self.

    Not advocating a forced determination or vision. Gandi and Martin Luther King Jr both come to mine. Neither were Complacent, but nor were they content with the world. They saw reality (more or less) as all beings the same, not buying group think and then worked hard to get this into our shared reality. Class Struggle/Oppression often force Complacency.

    Stepping outside.

    To Reverse Donal. Contentment=Non-denial. When not denying mentally/physically/emotionally we are satisfied. The more we deny, the more we catch ourselves and move away from this suchness.

    This moment, are you able to be here? Are you elsewhere? Satisfaction requires nothing :)

    With Contentment and Love, it’s a sunny SF day, I’m heading outside.



  10. I’ll focus in on the question “What does it take to make things happen?” and say, “Yes”, we absolutely do need vision and drive. Complacency and being resigned to the way things are (“I can’t make a difference here”) are very much what gets in the way of DOING.

    However, I believe we can be content, as in satisfied or happy with life, while still being committed to acting on the things that matter and making a difference in the world. Indeed, if we are perpetually discontent with how our own lives are there’s a risk we’ll tend towards complaining but not acting and that we’ll focus on making our personal lives better rather than addressing the big issues. It’s a paradox, but the more we contribute to others the more rewarding our own lives tend to become.

    There’s no shortage of problems in the world, the thing is to identify one we are passionate about, get committed to addressing it and take action.

    Kate (@kategroom)

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