How To Use Your Discontent
Photo by Devon Janse van Rensburg on Unsplash
Daniel Suelo lives in a cave in Moab, Utah, sometimes down by the river, or in the mountains. He works only to satisfy the need to work or to fulfill the need to contribute to society. Sometimes, he exchanges his time at a co-op for some fresh fruit and vegetables.
He does not own a home. He does not have student loans. He does not pay taxes. He does not use money. He does not live to work.
There are parts of me that want to be more like Daniel Suelo.
You can his story in The Man Who Quit Money, a well written, engaging read by Mark Sundeen that chronicles Daniel James Shellabarger’s (later to become Suelo) life as he battled his childhood beliefs, societal norms, and significant and historical economic forces to eventually lead a life separate from and independent of money.
The current has been flowing within me for years. I’m not coming to some enlightenment after reading this book. Though, maybe 6 months from now when I’m blogging from a cave in Utah, I’ll think differently.
I’ve always been a pursuer, a thinker, an idea guy. I’m proud of the fact that it hasn’t ended there for me, and that I’ve also grown into a doer.
Many people talk about writing a book, and I wrote one and I’m working on a second. That’s not a boast, just part of the story.
I started a podcast so I could talk to, learn from, and share the stories of interesting people.
I wanted to become a coach, and I did. In the process, I’ve created some frameworks and small group coaching plans that have helped other people.
I wanted to create an opportunity to allow my wife to work part time, and we did that, and she is, and she is happy doing it.
I dreamed about building a house (not with my own 2 hands, that’s another dream) and we did.
I dreamed about owning a business, and now I do.
For many of these things, though not all, there was at least a part of them that were about money.
If we can get to X, then we can do Y.
The number to allow us to ____ is ____.
Doing ___ will help us be able to ____ and then ____.
We all know, or learn at some point, that thinking that X will inevitably lead to Y (Y usually being joy, happiness, or fulfillment) is a fool’s errand. There is always another or more X to pursue, and Y is a moving target, or perhaps, not a target at all.
I suppose it’s a part of human nature, we do things that we know we shouldn’t, even while knowing we shouldn’t do them.
In this case, I know that happiness will not be waiting for me at the X or the Y, or the then, or the next blank I’m trying to fill in. We are foolish to think that the thing we are trying to get to will also have our happiness attached to it. And yet, it’s such an easy trap to fall into.
The things, the obligations, the wants, and the if/thens weigh heavy, and once you start carrying them around, you can’t easily set them down. There is, or there can be then, some discontent about where we are, who we are, and what we have.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Our Discontent
For sake of brevity, I’ll group the bad and the ugly together. When we allow ourselves to remain in a constant state of if/then, hoping that when we get/do/become something then we will be happy or fulfilled, things can go bad (or ugly).
When our discontent is a way of thinking or living that leads to depression or dissatisfaction with our lives, it can be damaging to us and to those around us.
The bad and ugly style of this discontent sees us angry, moping, absent of hope, and feeling like we are missing out. We feel like we should have something, or we feel like we really want something but that we’ll never get it, or we continue to get things and continue to remain unhappy. The things aren’t doing it for us. The things can’t do it for us.
There is a good side of our discontent, and I believe it’s a fine line to walk between the Good and the Bad/Ugly.
Our discontent can be a positive force when we take a look at our future, decide who we want to be, decide we aren’t there yet, and then take steps towards getting there. Being discontent about where we are is okay, as long as we don’t believe all the answers to everything we ever wanted in life is just over the ridge. What’s going to be over the ridge, when you get there, is you. And if we aren’t careful, our discontent will be along for the ride.
Daniel Suelo used his discontent with his life, the world, the meaning and use of money, to carve out a life, his life. He’s living on his terms, and by all accounts, happy and fulfilled with the choices he’s made and the things he’s decided to be for and against.
We don’t have to live in a cave, give up money, or go to what some may consider extremes in order to express our discontent. But we can allow our discontent to propel us into positive action, to lead us towards the life and being that we desire rather than chasing our discontent under the false belief that we’ll just be satisfied if.
Don’t get caught up in the if/then. There’s never a then. Then is always elusive, just around the corner, or just behind one more door. We can choose to be, and do, and work towards becoming. We can choose to allow our discontent to propel us forward positively, rather than tricking us into chasing something we cannot catch.
I’m pulling for you,