Six Steps to Contentment
- Dr. Neil Clark Warren for the eHarmony Research Library
- 2003 25 Apr
Everyone is searching for the secret of contentment. I don't mean the secret to becoming fabulously rich, incredibly good-looking, or wildly successful in a career. The search I'm talking about is for enduring contentment, the kind of deep-down, soul-satisfying contentment that infuses your life with peace and serenity, gives you the freedom and energy to express yourself and follow your dreams despite what others may think, and allows you to fall asleep at night without fretting about what might have been.
The secret of contentment lies in discovering who in the world you are and mobilizing your courage to be that person. I call that being "authentic." I've uncovered six steps that I believe are key to helping you stake a claim to the contented life you deserve.
1. Get in Touch With Your Pain
This pain refers to everything in a person's life that is experienced as a periodic or chronic problem-things that are off track; things that set them on edge. Some pain is obvious; other pain has to be looked for as you would search for a hidden malignant tumor in a person's body.
Pain is virtually always a clear signal from deep within that something in your life needs to be changed. It provides all kinds of information useful in your quest to become more authentic.
2. Find Out Who Occupies Your Control Booth
Do you sense that you stand alone at the center of your own control booth? For many, their spouse or parents occupy their control booth. They are literally not in charge of their own decision making process. Take the time to honestly assess whether all areas of your life are under your control. Your contentment depends on it.
3. Get Yourself Loved-Really Loved
You have to be engulfed by an unconditional love that ensures your emotional security under all circumstances. Without this kind of love, your fear will be too great.
Many people live their entire lives only experiencing "conditional" love. "I will love you if you are THIS." "I will love you if you treat me like THIS."
"Unconditional" means that it is a freely given love. It assures you that your value and worth will never diminish-regardless of what happens to you. It offers total emotional security.
This is the love that is at the center of a relationship with God. I need to know that my worth and value remain secure even if everyone turns against me. I need to have enormous trust and I only have this trust in God.
4. Carefully Examine All Your Data Sources
Any decision you make without gathering information from all available sources is a decision that has a good chance of being wrong. Authenticity is all about good decision making. If you want to be authentic, listen long and hard to all your data sources-including internal and external sources.
5. Thoroughly Evaluate All The Data
I meet hundreds of people a year through my speaking engagements. I find that most people are not great decision makers. If we studied them closely I think we would discover that this is why they seldom make much progress in changing their lives.
When you meet a person who is a great decision maker, watch them carefully. I always observe a common trait in these individuals. While they don't always take a long time to make a decision, they refuse to make it until they have carefully evaluated the data and understand it thoroughly. Their level of internal security means that outside efforts to hurry them have no impact.
6. Make Decisions Deliberately, Then Learn All You Can From Them
When I talk about contentment and authenticity I often use couples considering marriage as illustrations. That's because I can think of no decision that's more important or worthy of careful examination.
Most lovers advance their relationship in a step-by-step process. This careful progressive decision-making process, if managed properly, has every change of leading to long-term fulfillment.
The most important decisions don't have to be made at once-and they shouldn't be. They are often very complex and far-reaching. It takes substantial time to work through the data and summarize everything into a sound decision.
Once you've made your choice, study the decision and what you perceive to be true about you. If there is no harmony between the two, learn from this and don't make the same mistake again. Evaluate your successes as well. Your goal is to make continual progress with regard to authenticity, so learn everything you can from each wise and dumb decision.
It takes hard work and a lot of courage, but nothing in life is more important than becoming authentic and traveling the path to enduring contentment.
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