Seth Barham Design
Minimal and effective design, inspired by culture.

spartan wanderer

The Source of Your Contentment

Some of you may be thinking recently, “What happened to cynical Seth?” I can assure you he is very much still here. But it’s true I’ve been on a big positivity kick lately; I don’t know if it’s a reaction to how shit the world is with the threat of nuclear annihilation, super hurricanes, and senseless massacres, or if my recent lifestyle improvements are paying off. Whatever the cause of this recent increase in rainbow-tinted writing, I think we can all agree that positivity is in demand these days. This week I want to talk about getting more of it. 

Happiness is not necessarily an easy thing to achieve. This is probably because everyone has a subjective view of what happiness means to them. For the vast majority of people, the promise of happiness is tied up in long-term goals. I would say this applies to me somewhat. The experience itself of being in that flow state and working on something in Photoshop, coasting on a caffeine high with some good beats in the background can be extremely pleasurable, even if that particular chunk of time is only a small drop in the bucket toward a long-term plan for this work. 

This is sort of the point I’m getting at. The source of being content in the present runs parallel to our day to day actions. It doesn’t have to be a big build up to a return on investment further down the road. That contentedness is there, and while of course everyone’s situation is different and there are a lot of people in the world who have very, very little to be happy about, the lucky ones that do often overlook it and take it for granted. 

Yeah, this is a cheesy, live-in-the-moment post, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and it’s worth writing about because this simple revelation can save you a shitload of money in self-help books. It is possible to look in multiple directions. You can look forward toward your long-term goals and where you want to be and how that will fulfill you and make you happy. But you can also look to the left and right for sources of contentment that will honestly do a lot to spur you on to those bigger goals in the future. 

A good example is my dog. He’s about 15 years old now and I’ve missed some of his golden years while living in China. Taking him for walks and really just looking after him in his old age after he’s been there for all of life’s important milestones has brought some joy back into my life. It doesn’t have to be that sentimental though. Even taking an hour to sit down with some coffee and a copy of The Economist is one of my favorite ways to spend downtime, even if it does make me very boring and the news is not often good. I feel more informed and better prepared to contribute as a world citizen. 

My wife and I are still not living in the same country, and it can be very rough sometimes. Yet it still brings me a lot of happiness to talk to her and vent about our days together even if Skype is a piece of shit. We can either resign ourselves to complete misery or continue to stay as upbeat as we can on our journey to get a visa. We will have to wait regardless, so there’s no better response than to continue our relationship as if there isn’t thousands of miles of ocean and a shitty WiFi signal between us. 

These are some examples from my personal life, but there’s no reason you can’t do the same. If reading makes you happy, do more of it. If you exercise, be present for it and think about how good your body feels to expend that energy rather than that mental space of “fuck, I can’t wait for this to be over”. If it’s a nice day, just spend some time sitting outside and soak it in before global warming makes a massive, flaming super hurricane made out of methane that will consume us all. It’s the little things, right?

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