Let’s say for a minute that instead of a therapist you have a genie that will grant you three mental health wishes. Whatever’s getting in your way, bothering you, holding you back, poof, it’s gone, solved by the mental health genie.
OK. So now what? There’s nothing to make you unhappy anymore. Does that mean you’re happy?
At the very least, it probably means you’re content. Things are basically going well for you. Nothing to complain about.
After a while though, you might start to get a little restless. Bored even. You wonder: is this it?
Happiness isn’t just a lack of unhappiness. Even when things go our way, when we find ourselves in situations we basically feel good about, we aren’t really wired to stop there and settle for being content.
Instead, we look ahead to what’s next. When we get what we want, we set our sights a little higher. We make new goals and keep reaching.
That’s why we can’t simply become content and then stay content. We have to go further by looking for real meaning and for things we’re passionate about.
One way to do this is to make a point of trying new things and see what sticks. Volunteer. Work for a political campaign (just, for the love of all things good, please not Donald Trump’s political campaign). Look for something you can do that will make a difference for other people and will challenge you.
The idea is that when things go well and you find yourself actually feeling content, you should savor the good times, but you also shouldn’t be content with being content.
Why? Because contentment isn’t an emotion that’s built to last, and it can turn into boredom before you even realize what’s happening. Passion, on the other hand, and real meaning, are much more robust.
In this Ask the Therapist video, Marie Hartwell-Walker and Daniel J. Tomasulo address a letter asking about what to do when you really don’t have any problems at all. They talk about how to make the most of the times when things are going your way, and how to go beyond being content to being passionate.
Watch the video below, and visit the Psych Central YouTube channel for more Ask the Therapist videos.