The secret is messy contentment


Happiness is not a finish line, and if we can’t feel content amid the mess and striving, we might never feel it.

– Ben Saunders

Bridget Jones observed that when one part of your life is going well, another falls spectacularly to pieces. We know exactly how she felt. The difference is that Bridget got a perfect Hollywood ending. Our lives are less movie-worthy RomCom, more Gritty Reality Expose — with an emphasis on the gritty.

When one area of life crumbles, the ground can feel unstable, even if we’re standing on a safe spot. Our disappointment or struggle in one area can mar our enjoyment of something else that’s going well.

We long for a day when everything will fall into place. When the ducks will line up. When the washing will be completely up to date while our work is taking off, and while every member of the family is feeling on top of the world. We defer our happiness while we reach for the mirage on the horizon that never comes.

We’re hanging onto a fictional ideal of what our lives would look like if they were perfect. They’ll never be like that. It’s from within the mess, amid the striving and suffering and heartache that we glimpse happiness. We have jolts of pure joy. We spend contented afternoons doing something we love — or doing nothing really, at all, and enjoying that. We pass someone doing something for another in the street or read about this online and it’s enough, in that moment. People are beautiful, and it’s good to be alive.

We can feel that way on the same day that our kids disappoint us, or the accountant delivers bad news, or we botch something at work … and that’s how it is. We don’t have to scratch everything because one thing fell over.

Contentment and frustration are dance partners in the whirl of everyday living.

It’s our job to grasp the good stuff when we see it. To hold onto it, remember it and revisit it. It’s why experts advocate for gratitude journals and mindfulness — not because life is an endless stream of ‘wonderful’, but precisely because it isn’t. Pulling out the cream experiences of our lives and paying attention to the little things that go well is what makes the harder parts of life worth living through. These experiences are woven into a daisy chain of warm memories – picked from within the weeds.

When we can let go of the eternal quest for ‘happiness’ and feel content amid the mess, that’s when we’ll really have ‘made it’. That’s resourceful, purposeful, messy and unpredictable living, that we can start immediately, right now, despite the drama of the day.

What a relief it is when we realise we don’t have to fix things to get started …

You can find out more about our fresh approaches to time and energy at our upcoming workshop in Canberra. We only have 13 places left for this intimate workshop and tickets are selling fast …


About The Author

Emma Grey & Audrey Thomas

Audrey Thomas and Emma Grey are productivity experts, authors of 'I Don't Have Time' and its forthcoming sequel 'I Can't Be Bothered', and co-founders of the popular online program, My 15 Minutes. They help busy women reclaim their time and energy around the real-life challenges of modern life.

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