It was a stressful period at work. Rumors were going around that the company was downsizing. They had already let a few of my colleagues go.
I was not stressed because I hadn’t planned to be with that company for long, anyway.
I was looking forward to my long-awaited graduation ceremony before handing over my resignation.
But when the lay-off rumors started spreading, I thought it would be best if I just resign right away.
I thought; one less head is an opportunity for someone else, and I didn’t want to inconvenience my boss, just in case he had plans of saving my job. Of which, I highly doubted… I was a fresh graduate, not a big loss for the company.
My boss didn’t take it very well. His response was something like:
You are ungrateful. I have always rooted for you, but you seem to be someone who is always discontent. Your colleagues have lost their jobs and you are throwing this opportunity away? I had negotiated a better position for you.
My boss had other plans for me. Plans he made without consulting me… why would he?
It was in June 2013, so this is the closest I can remember his words. But his conclusion was that I come across as someone who is always discontent, and I need to be grateful.
You see, I got this job during my final year in college, as a part-time employee. When I finished my bachelor’s degree, they offered me a full-time position. I accepted, but I knew I didn’t want to stay in that job after I graduate.
My boss thought I had another job waiting. I didn’t.
“I just want to go back home and spend some time with my family,” I told him.
I didn’t know what I would do next. All I knew was; living in the UK wasn’t for me. My spirit was dying slowly. I missed home. Those were enough reasons for me.
We might not always have this luxury, but sometimes we have to switch off the logic brain and follow our instincts.
My boss’s reaction got to me for a while. And it got me thinking: Am I ungrateful? Am I just a spoilt brat?
Now 6 years later. I was thinking about this experience, and I can’t help but wonder;
Is discontent a bad thing?
Here are 3 definitions of discontent, just so we know what we are talking about:
- A feeling of wanting something better or an improved situation
- Restless aspiration for improvement
- A longing for something better than the present situation
Mandino says that;
“There are two kinds of the discontented in this world, the discontented that works and the discontented that wrings its hands. The first gets what it wants, and the second loses what it has. There is no cure for the first but success and there is no cure at all for the second. The very worst of my vices and bad habits will abate of themselves if they are brought to an accounting every day.”
― Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman in the World
The discontented that works
This happens; when we are fed up. When we know we can’t fake it anymore. When we are willing to do anything, but accept our current situation. When we’d rather be uncertain than unhappy.
Genuine discontent if accompanied by action results to change.
This is when we begin to ask questions. To inquire. The frequent yes’s turn into no’s and I don’t know’s. This makes people close to us uncomfortable because they do not know what to do with us anymore.
People don’t like change. People like to maintain the status quo. People find comfort in predictability. The ones who are always asking questions will come across as ungrateful or troublemakers.
We might even wonder: What is wrong with us? Why are we unhappy in a situation where others are happy? Why are we the ones asking questions? Why can’t we just settle and accept things as they are?
In the words of Angela Davis:
I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change; I am changing the things I cannot accept.
I love this quote.
We usually forget how the tiniest mental shift can influence the trajectory of our lives. We do not have to do much all at once. Making daily small steps towards the direction of the things we want is a good enough start.
The discontented that wrings his hands
When you are discontent, you are told, “don’t be ungrateful.” It’s like being discontent is a bad thing. So, we fake contentment by smothering our dissatisfaction. We compare with others and think; “After all, I’m not doing so bad, I have a job at least. I have a roof over my head.”
But we can’t pretend for long. It always catches up with us. It will show and if we are not careful, it seeps through other areas of our lives.
If we do not do something about our discontent, we only have ourselves to blame.
Inaction is a recipe for envy and bitterness.
Not doing something about your unhappiness doesn’t mean you are grateful. It just means you are smothering your inner voice and soon you won’t even recognize your inner voice anymore.
Embrace discontent; it is the birthplace of all possibilities
Being alive means, we will not always be content.
It is only through discontent that initiative can take place and as a result change can happen.
For how can one create if there is no need? Discontent creates a need. And you create to fill that need. Discontent is the path. Discontent can be your guiding star.
Things do not have to be bad for someone to be discontent. If something doesn’t make you happy, that is a reason enough already.
Things might actually be running smooth as usual. But the usual can also be not enough.
Sometimes an upgrade for you might be a less paying job but one that makes you happy. Sometimes living near your family is your priority. And sometimes being single rather than being married is a step towards happiness for you.
You are not a bad person to call it quits. You are not an ungrateful person for saying no to “opportunities”.
It is ok to cut cords and set yourself free into the unknown. The unknown can also be a happy place.
We can’t stay in the so-called “opportunities” just because other people wish for those opportunities. We can’t starve ourselves just because there are people starving somewhere in the world. That is foolish and irresponsible.
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
And the only way to fill your cup is to do YOU. Your way. Your path. Unapologetically.
Contentment comes when you see yourself as you are. Without comparison. Without condemnation. And you make steps towards the direction of things that make you happy.
This does not mean that everything in your life is perfect; things might actually be in shambles. Your life might seem chaotic to an outsider. Your decisions might defy societal norms. But your inner peace is a sign you are in the right direction.
Discontent is the universe’s way of telling you there is more for you.
Discontent will reveal to you who you are at your core.
And I will leave you with this quote;
“Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.” ~ Oscar Wilde