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Contentment, Complacency and the Pursuit of Success.

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Author: Ifeoluwa Oyelade

A friend sent me an unexpected message a few weeks ago, it read: ‘Can being successful become boring?’ I won’t bother to share my response, but his question reminded me of a recent post I came across on social media about the difference between contentment and complacency. At the time, I was not yet sure if a meaningful correlation existed between contentment, complacency and a desire for success but, I knew I wanted to connect the dots.

We live in a fast-paced world where there is a constant reminder to be the best version of ourselves, and I do agree that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best or chasing excellence. However, I believe that the problem arises when we focus on the chase and are unable to enjoy the blessings of the present. In other words, we are not content.

Contentment means satisfaction, fulfilment or happiness in the moment or in one’s situation. It can also be described as a state of being at ease with who you are, what you have and where you are at a particular time. However, I want to highlight the fact that we should be careful not to assume that contentment is a lack of drive or desire for more. A contented individual can be happy in the present whilst also striving to achieve their goals in life. Furthermore, contented people are able to differentiate between their wants and needs; they do not allow their desires to control their actions. I read an article that implies that contentment is an enemy of greatness, but I have to disagree with this idea. Greatness (or success) and contentment are not opposites of each other, neither are they in competition with one another. I believe that a shallow understanding of contentment leads to the wrong assumptions. Success is possible, and may I add, more gratifying when we strive for it from a place of contentment.

On the other hand, complacency is a feeling of laziness or satisfaction with oneself in the presence of deficiencies. It is also an unwillingness to put one’s best foot forward and the lack of desire to improve one’s situation. It has been said that there is a thin line between contentment and complacency, and that it is important to ensure that we do not cross the line to become complacent whilst aiming to live a contented life. Is it also possible that the fear of becoming complacent could be even more detrimental than complacency itself? I suspect many of us go on LinkedIn and feel that we are not achieving as much as our peers when we start playing the comparison game. Do we find ourselves driven by a desire for accolades and accomplishments that we forget to be grateful in the present? Is our fear of complacency rooted in our fear of being left behind by our peers?

I think it’s important to take a moment to answer these questions. In this age and time, when we almost have no choice but to be aware of everybody’s success, thanks to social media, it is understandable that many of us are racing to avoid the rut of complacency. However, we must be careful to not move past healthy boundaries and make unhealthy choices that could negatively impact our physical health, mental health and relationships with others.

Going back to my friend’s question; ‘Can being successful become boring?’, I believe that success could become boring when we pay more attention to the road to success without actually living in the moment with gratitude and contentment. Success would be gratifying when we’re not driven by desire and the fear of being “less than” our peers is not in control. In my opinion, contentment is the ultimate act of self-care and, I believe that we can only truly enjoy success when we have learnt to be content in life. The trick is to be contented and thrive in all areas of life without becoming complacent or living in constant fear of complacency.

As we look to the year ahead, I’ll implore us to include contentment in our goals and to do so with a great sense of intentionality. The fear of complacency should not steal our joy nor keep us from enjoying each passing moment. I’d encourage us to reach our goals from a place of contentment and gratefulness. Perhaps by doing so, we will strike gold and achieve greater happiness.

Rick Warren once said, “Contentment is enjoying what I have right now, rather than waiting for something to happen in order to be happy”. I would encourage us all to embrace this philosophy as we look forward to the year ahead.


About the Author

Ifeoluwa Oyelade is a Clinical Research Associate at Reliance Clinical Limited by day and a 'healthy living advocate' at all times. She is the creator of Health and Wellness joint on Instagram, where she enlightens her followers on healthy living practices to live a wholesome life. She enjoys Yoga and watching movies.


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