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3 simple insights to feeling satisfied (yes, even when not everything's perfect)

Updated: Apr 2, 2018

Dissatisfaction. It’s often a major factor in driving us to buy crap we don’t need. It tricks us into feeling depressed, or sulking, or just plain being irritated instead of enjoying our precious human lives. And it can be one of the biggest obstacles to clearing clutter, both mental and physical. Here’s how I cut through the bolshevik.

“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?” ― Chuck Palahniuk

For me, dissatisfaction most often arises as a result of conflicting needs that I haven’t yet found a way to balance. Perhaps you can relate to some of these examples:

  • House & Home: Wanting a clean and organized home versus not wanting to spend a vast amount of my time and energy reserves into maintaining (or enforcing) a clean and organized home. I’m naturally organized and I have great systems in place for managing mess, but this one used to be super tricky for me because it created conflict with other members of my family who weren’t exactly on board.

  • Style & Beauty: Wanting to look stylish and put-together without submitting to a high-maintenance beauty and style routine. I have naturally curly hair and uneven, delicate, freckled skin, neither of which are conducive to an easy beauty routine. I also have eclectic taste in clothing so it’s hard for me to commit to a look I can perfect and stick to it.

  • Work-Life Balance: Finding a work-life balance that allows me to grow my business and pay my bills, spend time with my family without feeling distracted, spend time with myself without feeling distracted, read, meditate, cook, tend my garden, and have that clean home, while looking put-together.

As I mentioned above, what these things had in common for me is that they were all a result of conflicting needs which I hadn’t yet found a way to balance. I can’t say that they’re all perfectly balanced now, but I can say I’ve found my coping mechanisms for not letting them get to me, which is even better, since ‘perfectly balanced’ doesn’t exist.

The first insight into balancing conflicting needs is prioritization. If you’re saying to yourself ‘I already know that’, please reconsider. Knowing something in your mind is not the same as applying it in your life. Sometimes the more aware you are of something in your mind, the less you’re able to see that you haven't actually applied it in your life at all because you’re so convinced that you’ve got it figured out already. As the lovely Marie Forliani mentions in this podcast on How to Get Everything You Want, when you find yourself saying ‘I already know that’, try asking yourself ‘What can I learn from that?’ instead.

Finding a way to balance my priorities doesn’t mean that I will devote the same amount of time and energy to each one. That goes against the whole idea of one thing taking precedence over another. But if I make an effort to consciously choose what I’m prioritizing and (this is critical) why it’s more important to me than the things that come after it, I won’t feel dissatisfied at not managing to achieve and maintain each of those things perfectly. I can set realistic and achievable expectations. I can focus on what I’m getting, not what I’m giving up.

Getting to 'realistic and achievable' often means lowering your expectations, and that feels totally okay when you accept that the concessions you’re making are in alignment with a higher set of values. For example, as long as my house is more-or-less ready for company to stop by unannounced, I don’t need it to be magazine-cover perfect if I can devote more time to hanging out with my daughter instead. Or, maybe I won’t go to yoga five times a week, but if I get in a good two sessions, and use those extra hours to give my blog the push it needs to get 100,000 unique visitors a month, then it’s worth it.

I’m sure you are already familiar with the voices in your head that make these kinds of negotiations. The idea I’m offering here is different. It’s learning to walk away from those negotiations without feeling like nothing is good enough.

I’m sure you are already familiar with the voices in your head that make these kinds of negotiations. The idea I’m offering here is different. It’s learning to walk away from those negotiations without feeling like nothing is good enough.

Remember, we're talking about your definition of good enough based on your unique set of priorities. Try not to compare yourself with how other people get things done, as this can be a MAJOR source of dissatisfaction.

Lastly, make a point of practicing gratitude. It’s great to strive to improve yourself, to achieve mastery, to try and make things better. But you’re likely to get a lot further, and enjoy the way a lot more, if you make a daily habit of stopping to appreciate what you already have. As with prioritization, it’s not enough to recognize or agree with this in thought. You won’t feel the benefits unless you actually apply it in your life. For example, I often start my day, before I’ve even gotten out of bed, by taking 10 minutes to reflect on all the things that I’m grateful for; my health, my family, the opportunity to do work that is meaningful for me. On mornings when I remember to do that, my day looks much better.

What are your unbalanced priorities that are keeping you from feeling satisfied and what are the triggers that get you spinning? Tell me in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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