The outrageous benefits of learning the skill of practicing contentment.
It seems that there is sometimes a paradox in life that people build their own prisons and then spend the rest of their life trying break out, only to get back to exactly the place they started from, not realizing the contentment they had at the time, until they were able to compare it to their future state. This can be seen in so many areas of life.
In relationships for example, take the person who always wants to be in a relationship, but when they are, want nothing more than to be single and free.
Take the person who has a carefree lifestyle but trades it for a debt so that they may have a glamorous lifestyle because they believe it will bring them greater happiness, later realizing that they wish it was carefree again but now need to work constantly to pay off their new debts. All of this while telling themselves that the items of convenience they bought are the same thing as being content, or better yet, happy.
Think one more time of the craftsman, or hobbyist, that truly loves his hobby only to find that when forced to do it every single day no longer enjoys it.
A great demonstration of this concept is the following fictional short story.
It’s more than just an anecdotal tale though. The people of Okinawa seem to bear out the validity of this lesson in statistical truth. They are not wealthy but embrace a way of life, activity, and diet that gives them a figurative fountain of youth and contentment. This is why they have more people over 100 years old than any other people in the world. They are no doubt super-agers and it’s not simply genetic. Citizens who move off the Island and adopt a Western diet also contract “Western diseases”. I couldn’t help but think of them the first time I heard the following story.
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”