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My wish for you: Contentment.

December 3, 2010

Did you bust your door at the last Black Friday?

I have to admit I was a bit tempted as I flipped through the advertisements for the Black Friday door busters (a name which has proven to be literal in years past). 

Fortunately for me, I am not much of a shopper. So my temptation went away quickly after a second helping of turkey and piece of pumpkin pie. I am not saying there is anything wrong with shopping for deals on Black Friday. I think it’s good to not pay full price if you can avoid it. However, it is important to not get lost in the emotions of holiday shopping, Black Friday deals or not.

            One of the keys to making wise personal financial decisions and to really enjoying life is to be content. When we are content with what we have as opposed to always being jealous of what others have, we can find a joy in life that we will not find in purchasing more items.

            I recently read the book “Enough:  Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity” by Adam Hamilton. The book explains four things you can do to live a more content life.

No. 1: Develop a grateful heart. In our materialistic society, some find it hard to be thankful for what they have. It is so easy to see something more we feel we need when we watch television, flip through a magazine or browse the internet.

            As long as we focus on what we do not have instead of what we do have, we will live bitter lives. When we can turn that focus on what we do have, we can be joyful. When you are discouraged or jealous, I suggest you take out a note card and make a list of things for which you are thankful. It can be your health, a place to sleep at night, enough food to eat, or the love of your family. If you are going through a rough time, it could be as simple as being thankful for waking up another morning or living in the United States.

No. 2: Remember that things could be worse. I do not think it can always be helpful to focus on people who are worse off than yourself, but perhaps the plight of others may help you put your situation in its proper perspective. Consider this: more than a billion people are undernourished and do not have access to clean water. More than three billion cannot speak and act according to their faith without fear, harassment, imprisonment or death.  If you have money in a checking account in a bank, you are richer than more than five billion people.

            No. 3: Ask yourself, “How long will this make me happy?” If you have trouble with impulse shopping, wait 24 hours before purchasing something you want. When you take a day to think about an item and how much happiness it will bring you, you will have time to see if it is worth it. If you have trouble with the waiting, freeze your debit or credit card in a block of ice. When you want to purchase something, you must wait for the card to melt to do so.

            No. 4: Ask yourself, “Where does my soul find true satisfaction?” It is too easy to get wrapped up with day-to-day living to forget our values and what is really important in our lives. When you can clearly define your values and write them down, it can help direct how you use your resources. If you do not take the time to do this, you will spend money and time searching for things to try and make you happy.

            Another idea, which Hamilton does not mention, is to be the master of what you watch and read. Media can distort our ideas of what we need to be happy and it can heighten our anxiety. When we watch the news or talk shows, we are constantly reminded on all the troubles in the world. If you let your thoughts get dominated by what you watch on television, it only will cause you discontentment. You are not going to see contentment on television because that does not drive the ratings.

            Another Black Friday has come and gone and we are in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It truly is the most wonderful time of year, and I hope you take time to count your blessings. I hope you are thankful for what you have and you work to live a more content life in 2011.

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