6 Steps On The Path of Contentment
I’ve been thinking a lot about contentment lately. Perhaps it is because I could feel the vines of discontentment creeping up to me and I certainly didn’t want to be bound by them. The following 6 tips are a few that I’ve come across in my reflections about contentment.
1. Focus on What You Do Have
To me, contentment is a path and I believe that gratitude is the key that opens the door to that path. But let’s face it, sometimes it’s so darn hard to feel grateful when you have bills to pay and no money. Or, when everyone else seems to have a loving and helpful spouse, and you don’t. I get it. This is part of human nature. But usually something is going right in your life, even if it is simply your desire to be a better person. Reflect on that and on the good things that have happened to you in the past or even the bad things that have not touched you. When I was a kid, I used to get sad and sometimes angry that everyone at school seemed to have their mom living with them and I didn’t. Sometimes, I would cry about it. But then, when I was a teenager, I started feeling better about it because I reflected on the good of my situation. I had a very good father with me, a brother, safety, etc. Also, I was a fairly independent person partly because my mom wasn’t there to do certain things for me. It actually helped me grow in some positive ways. There is always a chance for a silver lining to our dark clouds, either in this life or the next.
2 Remember This Life is Temporary
Okay, this basically means reflecting on the bigger picture of life. You are going to leave all the material stuff behind one day. Is it really that serious? Your actions are what you can take with you. Even if you leave behind material stuff that will benefit others (ie Sadaqa Jariyah) it’s still intentions and actions in relation to that stuff that will benefit you after you are gone. I’m sort of a minimalist but even I was getting caught up on minute details of things that I don’t have. It’s okay to want things but don’t let that be your focus especially if those things are out of reach at the moment. It’s funny that when you stop making such things a deep focus in your life, a lot of times you end up getting what you wanted or better, or stop wanting it so bad.
3. Avoid the Wrong Company
Notice I said Wrong company and not Bad company. Sometimes the wrong company for you at a given time are not necessarily bad people. They may just be a wrong fit for you at the time. When you are struggling, you may need to give yourself time to rehabilitate, and that may mean staying away from social media and/or some of the people that you associate yourself with. It may be hard especially if those people are not bad people. For example, if you are going through a lot of financial hardship and you are having a hard time dealing with it emotionally, give yourself time to keep away from things that will remind you of your problems. If one of those things is social media, then stay away. Also, if you are surrounded by friends who love talking about shopping and the latest things that they bought or something of the sort and it really gets to you, take a time out. You can either be up front with them and tell them how you feel or if you can’t find anything else to talk to them about, expose yourself to them less until you have a better handle on your emotions. I’ve actually taken steps such as these before, and it helped me immediately. I strive to be conscious and sympathetic to my friends’ struggles and want the same from them, so if they cannot do so then I feel that my mental health and iman are too valuable to sacrifice. However, if members of your family are included in the wrong company, then you need to do your best to give them their rights while trying to balance your needs. Allah knows your struggle and will reward you for fulfilling your duties without needing you to be a doormat.
4. Get Busy – With a Purpose
One thing that I think is really really important is to have a sense of purpose in your life. That sense of purpose is for you to be engaged in something everyday that either you are utterly passionate about or devoted to. I really struggled with this and this is one reason why I started this blog. I had so many ideas and things that I was interested in coupled with an unwillingness to compromise my time with my family that I was hit with confusion and subsequent inertia. I was frozen. Then, I realized that your purpose can be anything. With the constant talk of reaching for the stars blah…blah…blah at school and other places you can easily get caught up into thinking your purpose has to be something grand and outside of yourself and family. But it doesn’t. Your purpose may be to keep a clean and organized home with a home cooked dinner on the table every night. Your purpose may be to make sure you teach your children Qur’an. It may be to make sure you exercise and keep yourself healthy and fit so that you have the stamina to worship on time and do tahajjud. With the right intention anything that is beneficial and halal can be made into a worship. Also, remember that your purpose can change with the seasons of your life. Your purpose as a young, unmarried 20-something may be very different than your purpose as a 30-something parent of young children, and so on.
5. Limit Your Expectations
Do you know why a surprise gift feels good even if you are not totally in love with the gift? Because you didn’t expect it. Expectations are funny. Sometimes you need to have high expectations but many times they just get you in trouble. They breed d i s s a t i s f a t i o n when not met. My expectatations for others were never that high so I have a tendency to get along with a variety of people. However, the darkness resided in my expectations for myself. They were so high that they were almost all unattainable and this made me quite frustrated and unhappy. I told myself that these expectations were for good and by not having those I expectations, I would not live up to my potential and I would thereby be ungrateful to my creator by wasting what he blessed me with. Complicate, right? It’s also very paralyzing and overwhelming. I wanted to be uber religious memorizing Qur’an, organized, always be well put together, deeply intellectual and reading sooo many books, and speak multiple languages fluently, and have a good occupation with a decent income, and write books, and make clothes, and stay home with my children, and……you get the picture. I know some of you may think I was crazy but somehow deep down I wanted it all. NewsFlash: You probably can’t have it all and THAT’S OKAY! I’m not saying that you don’t need to have expectations for yourself and others, but just be very careful about your expectations. Remember, that ultimately our fate is in Allah’s hands. He knows us better than we know ourselves. We try our best and leave the rest to Him. Our first goal should be to give Him his rights over us and everything else is quite secondary.
6. Make Du’a (Pray)
I truly believe in making du’a….as in make du’a for what you need in every sujud. SubHanallah, it dawned on me one day when I was sitting at home watching my kids play. I realized that my prayers were being answered and I didn’t even really acknowledge it. Ever since I was a teenager, I had made a constant du’a that Allah provide me with a good Muslim husband and children. I had other details about my future family that I had prayed for and it was at that moment that I reflected and saw that what I prayed for had actually come true. And it’s funny that the things that I was upset about not having were never part of my constant du’a. So, continue to pray to Allah for what you need and want. Also, remember that He is not your personal Genie. Allah has different ways of answering du’as. It may take time for your du’as to be answered. You may be given something better or an equal harm may be stopped from befalling you. You may also be rewarded in the hereafter.
I want to leave you with one of my favorite du’as (for anxiety & sorrow) from the Hisnul Muslim (Fortification of the Muslim) book:
O Allaah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men.
Tell me what you think! Do you have any more tips?