The following is an excerpt from the upcoming sequel to 56 Notions of Success. The new book will be titled, Ethical Success.
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Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking. ― H.L. Mencken
YOU are responsible for determining and exercising what is good, not Society. Society is not a person; you are. Society is a collective of individuals and entities. You cannot hold Society responsible for your behavior. You do what you choose.
And only you are responsible for your own contentment.
Contentment empowers your decisions to find that Golden Mean. It is more powerful than happiness. Happiness can be fleeting; contentment is a steady, constant state of being.
On more than one occasion I have counseled persons on this point. I remember when Doreen came to me distraught. As she told her story she reached a point of anger and proclaimed, “It’s his fault that I’m not content with living and I never will be until he changes.”
Explaining to Doreen that he is not responsible for her contentment was a delicate exercise. That work, however, began with a blunt statement of fact: “Doreen, you and you only are responsible for your contentment. Do not give that power to anyone else.”
Contentment is such a powerful virtue!
Western society wages war on contentment. It bombards its inhabitants with commercialized desires of discontent. We are constantly reminded of what we don’t have and why we supposedly cannot live without these objects.
Contentment, however, does not mean trying to improve your Self. The danger lies in connecting self-improvement with tangible items as proof of growth. That is similar to rewarding yourself food when you are dieting to lose weight. It is self-sabotaging.
Contentment begins when you keep life simple. The number of lands, vehicles, or electronic gadgets cannot determine your contentment. Knowing how to enjoy what you do have is determinate. So often we ignore the beautiful sunsets, birds flying through the air, children laughing, and rivers flowing. Learn to enjoy the simple things and you will discover the power of contentment.
Doreen grew from her experience. She was in a season of life where she required public transportation. The problem was the closest stop to her work was two miles away. Rather than focus on what she didn’t have: a car, a supportive husband, etc, she began to enjoy that two mile walk. She reported that she began to notice things she never saw before: lizards stalking dragonflies, raccoons coming out of the lagoon, rabbits jumping freely, kingfishers on the power lines and herons in the water. She said she felt more rich enjoying the moment than any tangible asset she has ever owned.
And that brings us to another aspect of Contentment: keeping finances streamlined. Unethical expenditures are those spent out of greed or excess. We get so caught up with the unethical commercialized life-style that our money situations become complicated. How many credit cards do you really require? It is no wonder Aristotle taught, “Happiness is self-contentedness.”
Keep your relationships satisfying. That includes work-related ones too. Lasting happiness and security are discovered when ethical behavior yields a good reputation and honor. True friendship and happy family life are also part of the reward for ethical relationships.
Contentment is found in peaceful and secured environments, not in those where others are manipulated for personal gain. Routine might seem like you are “in a rut,” but it is also signals an ordered environment. Don’t look outside of yourself for fulfillment; look within.
Challenge: Ethics begins by staying true to your Self. Do I act with integrity and enjoy contentment as its reward?