Ep 21: Feeling Content Now, Not Later

Why do we reach for big goals? Why do we want improvement in life? Most would say it’s so we can be happier.

But what if that doesn’t work? We see people reach their goals all the time and are just as frustrated and angry at life as they were before they had that success.

We know that money does not create happiness.
We know that losing weight doesn’t create confidence.
And take a deep breath here… we know that our partners do not give us the deep joy and happiness we long for.

So why do we have goals then? If they don’t make us happy, why reach for better health, deeper connections in our relationships, and success in our own creativity and careers?

We reach for goals simply because we want to grow in life and create fun. These to things are part of being human. And if we ignore them we are ignoring part of who we are.

But achieving our goals does not create joy and contentment. That is something we get to create all on our own … with our magnificent minds.

And when we do … it makes the journey on the way to the goals so much more fun!  Listen to Episode 21 to learn why we can feel joy and contentment long before our goals are achieved.

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • If you’re not willing to feel contentment now, you’ll give up on your goals
  • How feeling content in your marriage can help you create a better marriage.
  • Hear my personal goals, struggles, and how I’m overcoming them.

Mentioned On The Show:

Hey, this is rachael cunningham and you’re listening to joyful love, episode 21

Joy and Contentment before Success

Hi everyone and welcome back!  This week we’ll be talking about the importance of cultivating contentment in our lives BEFORE all of our big dreams and goals are accomplished…

There’s this  cognitive dissonance that can take place when we have a GOAL to  be fully present and happy in our lives as they are right now, mixed WITH our GOALS to reach for bigger things.

And we were discussing that sweet spot right in the middle – where you can move toward the discomfort of growth …. And be fully content with your present life.

It’s the middle ground that takes practice and intention, right?

So Is it possible to reach for goals and be happy on the way there?

Is it possible to keep our passion alive and the determination required for goals and dreams WITHOUT missing the beauty of the here and now?

Can we have big goals and dreams, yet be so content in life, that we release the stress and struggle of achieving our goal?

I 100% believe it is possible.

Now… in full disclosure,I am not completely there yet …  I have a long way to go!

I’m not some magical, mystical being who has it all figured out. I do this work right along with you all!

And I’m currently working on several goals. …

As are many of you.

I have goals in my business, in my physical health, in my relationships, and in my own emotional and spiritual well-being.

One of my goals this year is to decrease the amount of joint pain I have.

I’m working with my naturopathic doctor to dig deep into my symptoms and see what my body needs.  Through different tests and looking at my symptoms, she’s asked me to cut out top allergin foods and even foods that I’m just sensitive to. I’m also working on not eating if I’m not hungry as I’ve gotten in the habit of snacking a lot since the pandemic started!  We’re doing other things too including supplements to heal my gut and adding more movement in my days, but that’s beside the point of this podcast! I do have a point that I’m getting to!!

So The other day, I was eating some granola … I don’t know if you’ve had it or not, but the brand Purely Elizabeth makes some really good granola!

I’ve been eating mostly paleo for a few years, so I’m very excited to add granola back in to my life!

But this granola is so good that I wanted a 2nd bowl. So I ate the second bowl… and right after that, I was determined to get to work!

And then Cris came into the kitchen as I finished that bowl and began talking to me.

And what did I do? Did I say, “hey babe I gotta get to work, let’s talk later”


I poured another bowl of granola!

Yes, if you’re counting, that’s three bowls of granola!

I was no longer hungry.

I was just eating because it was good and well… honestly, I didn’t know in that moment …

But after I ate 3 bowls of granola, my body felt tired because it really doesn’t like to have to digest more than it needs … so I pretty quickly asked myself – why did I just do that!!! That doesn’t match with my goals – for my health or my joint pain … or even honoring what’s on my calendar at all!

And as i was thinking about what my reasons were …. Because I actually enjoy analyzing my reasons for doing the things I do … I had to ask myself the question that I often ask my clients when they don’t stick to their habits ….

I had to be my own client for a minute.

That very important question to ask in this moment is: What emotion was I not willing to feel in that moment?

Usually the emotion I’m not willing to feel would be boredom, worry, frustration, deprivation … or some other negative emotion.

But my answer was different this time ….

The emotion I wasn’t willing to feel was contentment.

In that moment, I was not willing to feel content with what I had.

But why was I not willing to feel content?  Isn’t that the reason we do anything? So that we can feel good? So we can feel happy in life?

So why was I avoiding the feeling of being content and happy with what my body needed instead of grasping for more?  There were a few reasons in that moment …

I was not willing to feel content because if I was content with one bowl of granola… I would have to go do the next thing on my calendar.

But If I had the excuse of eating another bowl … I could put off getting to work on the next thing I had planned. Which meant my brain would need to focus and get to work.

If I had decided to FEEL contentment in the moment with the one bowl, I would not have an excuse to procrastinate.

And then …. When Cris entered the room and started talking to me, IF I felt contentment with what I ate …. I would have had to say, “Babe I need to get to work right now instead of hanging out”

But my brain wanted to hang out.

It wanted another reason to procrastinate.

But it felt guilty about it. It felt guilty for pushing him away, guilty for not working … all the guilt – no matter what, right?

So instead of just making a decision guilt-free one way or the other …. To Hang with Cris for 10 minutes or to tell Cris that I needed to go work ….

My lovely brain offered me a 3rd option – just eat one more bowl of granola while you hang out and that way, you’re multi-tasking and getting something done.

It even offered me the thought, “I’ll just skip lunch later since I’ll be full enough”

What the hell, brain!!!!  That is not how we do things anymore!

Except apparently sometimes it still is. Because I have a human brain and no matter how much I learn to watch it and manage it … it will offer me about 60,000 thoughts every single day and I get to decide on purpose what to do with them. Do I believe them and act on them .. Or do I question them and make decisions based on what I TRULY want for my life … not just what I want in that moment.

The brain is a busy thinking machine! And scientists have found that 80% of the thoughts most humans have are negative …. And then 95% of the thoughts we have are repetitive and are just on a loop from previous days!

But if we’re getting in the habit of watching the brain and doing thought work … let’s dig deeper into my unwillingness to FEEL content in that moment with what I NEEDED… which was one bowl of granola ….  I wasn’t willing to say, Ok rach – that’s enough. You’re full. You can feel content with that yummy bowl of granola and not reach for more!

Usually when we have a thought in one area … we can see it show up in other areas.

So I started asking myself, “where else in my life do I want to feel content and I don’t?”

And folks, that’s a scary question!  

If I feel content in life … will that mean I’ll give up on my goals?

If I feel content in my body, will that mean I won’t work toward feeling less pain?
If I feel content in my home, will that mean I won’t trim the ivy that’s overgrown or clean out the garage that needs it?

If I feel content with the money that’s in my bank account, will that mean I won’t keep growing my business?

So the real question here is: Does contentment lead to complacency?

If we are content in life … will we stop growing on purpose?

And I don’t believe so.  I actually believe the opposite is true, friends …

Just like if I had felt contentment with the one bowl of granola …. My body would have more energy to focus on healing … my blood sugar wouldn’t have spiked, which can cause inflammation and fatigue.

And If I feel contentment in my bank account …. I can create content for my followers and clients out of pure love and a desire to help them instead of worrying about getting all the clients, right? I can trust that the people who are supposed to work with me are coming! And they always do, at just the right time!

If I look around at my home and think, “I love this home.” And if I focus on the things I like about my home, I’m not going to ignore the overgrown Ivy, I’m gonna make the time to trim it…. Because I LOVE my home! And I’m not gonna ignore the garage if I’m content … I’m gonna make the time to declutter it! Because I LOVE it!

I have another example that I’m having a ton of fun with at the moment.

I’m learning to skate on a longboard by showing up to practice every weekday for 20 minutes.

I often think: That’s not enough time.  At first, i thought it wasn’t enough time to improve.

I was wrong.  Now i think it’s not enough time because I’m to the point of thoroughly enjoying my time on the board and I think I want to skate for like an hour!

But I know that right now, I don’t have that every day …. So – I choose not to believe that thought my brain offers me. 10 to 20 minutes is PLENTY of time.

It’s enough time to learn. It’s enough time to give my brain a pleasure boost in the morning … which I’ve learned sets me up for more joy throughout the day!

And I can make the choice to be content with that 20 minutes instead of focusing on the short time frame.

Contentment with the time I have HELPS me to commit to my goal of learning to skate.  Contentment helps me to drop excuses.
Contentment helps me to keep going on my goals instead of giving up.

And let’s look at my relationship with my husband … I’m very content with him. He’s an amazing man, full of heart and love.  

And yet … we both have things we can improve on in our relationship. For as long as we’re alive, I intend to keep growing closer and closer – becoming more intimate and more intentional in our love and communication.

But the way there is not to focus on all our flaws. The way there is to be totally happy right now in what we already have. The happier and more content we are right now … the more we’ll WANT to improve in all areas of life together … not because we have to improve to be happy together … but because growth is inevitable for those who focus on the good and intentionally choose to grow from a place of love instead of criticism.

This doesn’t mean we dont’ take an honest look at areas we want to grow in… of course we pull those out and look at them. But we look at them from a place of compassion and hope for eachother … not from a place of criticism.

We don’t wait until we’re perfect and untell all our goals are met in life to feel content.

And we don’t strive to achieve our goals with the purpose of being happy.  The truth is… There is no magic happiness on the other side of success.  When you accomplish your goals … you will still have the same human brain that you have today.

So you might as well start cultivating that happiness and contentment now.  

I challenge you to look around at your life, at your family, at your home … and find something to be content with … even if it’s just one thing. And when you do this … you allow space for success to happen.

Let me say that again … When you find contentment right now … you allow SPACE for success to happen!

What do I mean by that?

Well first of all, let’s get clear on what contentment is … for me, it’s a happy feeling deep inside of me. It’s allowing myself to feel the joy of simply being a human on this planet. It’s allowing myself to see beauty even on the hard days.

Contentment means that I see my own worth, right now – in all my imperfections.
Contentment means I see my husbands worth, my kids worth, and every human I come in contact with – in all their imperfections!

You can’t have contentment without love for all the humans!

So now…how do we define success?

To me, success has nothing to do with the circumstances of our lives… not our finances, not who our partners are … nor what our home looks like.

Rather success to me is the ability to honor your commitments and priorities in life.

So success happens on a daily basis … not on the other side of your dreams.

So do goals not matter?

For me, my goals DO matter. They matter greatly…. because part of my own joy includes personal growth and having fun doing what I want to!

And goals are an incredible way to keep growing and learning.
They’re a brilliant way to bring more fun in your life!

I set goals to achieve because it’s fun.  And because goals challenge me to grow emotionally and spiritually.

I believe the practice of setting goals is spiritual.

The goal of learning to skate requires me to overcome the fear of falling. It requires me to overcome the embarrassment of the neighbors seeing me look like a beginner. It requires me to get better at committing to myself.  It requires me to be CONTENT with what is! Content in feeling all the feelings instead of fighting them! Content that I might ALWAYS feel like a beginner and that’s ok!

Let’s look at my relationship goals now. …. My goal of increasing my communication skills with Cris requires me to admit that even as a marriage coach, my own marriage can continue to improve and get better. It requires me to be content with not being perfect .. even as I help others in their marriage!

So you see how goals are NOT so that we can be happy on the other side. Rather Goals are for growth and pure FUN!

And in order to enjoy the other side of success – after our goals are achieved… we MUST practice contentment and happiness now.

You do NOT wait for your dreams to be fulfilled before you enjoy life.

And the more you enjoy life now … yes, in whatever circumstance you’re in … the more likely you are to achieve your goals. Because you’re not wasting energy fighting against reality!

It’s true! You CAN feel content before your goals are achieved.

Yes it takes Practice.

Practice feeling joy in the present moment over and over.

Do not postpone feeling pure joy until you’re successful.  

Research shows that people are no more happy after their goals are accomplished than before!

So practice creating those feelings of joy now.

And set your goals now. Heck, set your massive goals now. Visualize yourself succeeding at them … Define them …. Commit to them….. Plan to Honor them… all while feeling that contentment with where you’re at now.

Contentment with what is … and Reaching for your goals.

Right alongside each other!

They ride together, side by side.

Contentment AND Reaching – They support each other.  

You don’t wait for one to be fulfilled to get to the other.

Joy and Dreams ….They are meant to be linked together … all the way to the other side.

So don’t wait friends.

Where can you feel joy today?

How about with your partner? And don’t tell yourself you can’t. Look deeper than the words, “I don’t know.”

I don’t know is a thought your brain is offering you. How can you feel content with what is? In one area with your partner?

What would you be thinking if your partner did everything you wanted? They knew exactly how to support you and could communicate with you brilliantly!  How would you feel?

I challenge you to realize that you can think that thought and feel that emotion right now.

Remember, YOU are in control of the way you feel. No one else has that power to create a feeling inside of you.  ONLY you, with the power of your thoughts can create that feeling.

Allow yourself to answer that question…. What can you think, right now that will create a feeling of joy in you about your relationship?

Now, when you tap into that feeling, how are you going to respond to your partner when you see them next?   And what is that response gonna create for you?  I promise, it’s gonna move you closer to your goal of improving your relationship!

But it starts with thought work to create that joy now.

And that is 100% in your control, friend.

Now go take it to the other areas of your life … How can you feel content with your health?

And In your work?

Feel the joy. Lean into contentment and joy right now … and watch the bigger dreams and goals begin to flourish.

This is mind-work. Mind work that digs deeper for growth and joy … at the same time.

It is so helpful to work with a coach as you learn to watch your brain together and create the results you want in life.

Your relationship CAN be one of joy and excitement right now.

It can be one where you learn and grow together.  Where you learn to drop criticism, build intimacy, ask for what you want, set boundaries, and have a ton of fun along the way.

If you need help with this …. Reach out! I can help you!

And I always forget to ask you all to go to itunes and leave me a review! So I’m asking! If you like what your hearing, leave me a review … it helps others to find this podcast and bring more love, peace, and joy into their world!

Thank you, friends!

I’ll see ya next week!

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