A thirst to self-improve and achieve is a double-edged sword. It can lead to a life filled with meaning and growth. It also holds the danger of cultivating a chronic sense of inadequacy or greed. Always chasing the next improvement, the next achievement, satisfaction fleeting and quickly dismissed. Never feeling like who you are or what you’ve done is enough.
This is a big problem, yet abandoning your goals hardly seems like a good solution. Is there a way to have the benefits without the cons? The approach I find works for me is what I call opticontentment.
Opticontentment is a term I coined because I couldn’t find a word for it in the English language. It’s a portmanteau of the words “optimizing” and “contentment” because it fuses the two concepts. It means to be optimizing, trying to improve and grow, while at the same time being content and happy with where you’re currently at. It could be characterised as replacing the sentence, “My life is good, but it could get better” with, “My life is good, and it can get even better”. What this looks like is a deep gratitude for what you’ve already done, for who you are, and wanting to do even more.
How do you achieve this state? Having the word for it in the first place will help, providing a way for your brain to quickly access the concept. The next step is to try to internalize it. You can use the methods I wrote about here to internalize new beliefs or thought patterns. These are a good first few steps, and I feel opticontented about them. I have every intention of discovering and developing even more techniques on implementing them, and I’ll be sure to share them with you when I do!
I'm an effective altruist who co-founded Charity Science Health and Charity Entrepreneurship.