Contentment

contentmentRecently I reviewed the book Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham. This morning, as I was talking with my son John, I was reminded of a point Buckingham made. Buckingham contends that women are generally less happy now than 40 years ago because they have so many choices, and they’re afraid they’ll pick the wrong ones. While I’m not sure about the entire supposition, I think he’s right about the effect of having so many choices: it seems to naturally lead to discontentment.

As we were driving to co-op this morning, we passed by an elementary school; the school day had already started. John was sitting in the front seat, looked at the school, and commented on how it’s “too bad” for the kids who have to go to school. (I’ve been trying to make the point to my children lately that they have more free time than many of their peers).

I thought back, then, to my own school days. I remember complaining if I had a lot of homework or if I wasn’t ready for a test, but I never thought of myself as unfortunate. We went to school — that’s just what we did.

But now we have more choices. We choose to homeschool, and in doing so I choose the curriculum. We have more free time, so we choose from the many activities available. We do so many things during the year: music lessons, art lessons, scouts, library programs, roller skating, ice skating, PE classes, clubs, field trips, holiday parties, and meeting with friends. So why, then, do my children come to me with grumpy faces and say, “Why can’t we go bowling sometime?”

We aren’t limited in the foods we eat either; we can have pizza one night, chicken the next, then soup and sandwiches, then tacos, then spaghetti. Why then, after fixing a full meal each night, do my children come again with grumpy faces and say, “Don’t we have anything else to eat?”

I often feel like I should give my children every opportunity I can that comes along. That will ensure, I think, that they will have a well-rounded and productive childhood, helping them to grow into fine adults. Yet somewhere, among all those choices, we tend to lose our sense of gratitude and contentment. These, I believe,  are two of the key elements to a truly happy life — and a good lesson to learn.

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