This article reveals how it’s possible to recognize your career contentment even in situations where you are not happy or entirely satisfied. More importantly, it explains why it’s beneficial for you to do so, and even easier than attempting to be happy or made satisfied.

Can you imagine having feelings of contentment even though you’re not happy or entirely satisfied, or where your circumstances on the job seem hopeless? It’s entirely possible, but not everyone can imagine this happening. They ask:

•Is career contentment possible when my boss is a jerk who drives me nuts?
•Is it possible when I’m killing myself working ten hour days and weekends?
•Even if my job pays peanuts and I can’t seem to meet my expenses?
•When it seems I have no control over what my employer does or doesn’t do?

The answer is yes to all of these questions. Career contentment isn’t found or dependent on your good or bad circumstances, or what other people do or don’t do. You have to recognize it intentionally, and so it’s a matter of whether you’re willing, motivated or hopefully predisposed to recognize it.

Is your job sufficiently meaningful or worth doing all you can to keep it despite the circumstances? Are you doing what you love and can you demonstrate it by not complaining about the dissatisfactions that are inevitable in an imperfect world? If you’re not in the right job then maybe you’re not motivated enough to recognize your contentment. However, you still can, and it’s beneficial if you do. Contentment is recognizable in any situation you choose to recognize it.

How is this possible? By avoiding “either/or” thinking and not expecting everything to always be perfect or to go your way. Instead, you reason to recognize the acceptable middle ground and thereby avoid the hazardous emotions that create problems for you and the people who come in contact with you.

I’m not saying it’s easy to do this, but technically, it’s entirely possible and also beneficial to your emotions and performance effectiveness. Contrary to what you might think, you do not live in response to your good or bad circumstances, but in response to your emotions caused by what you think about your circumstances. You act on your emotions, and this is something coaches, leaders and sales people rely upon. They inspire the emotions that get you moving, and you can do this yourself.

All things are meaningless until you react, and your reaction is caused by what you think or the meaning you assign to whatever happens. Bosses are insignificant until you classify them as jerks or as driving you nuts. Work hours are insignificant until you classify them as long or as killing you. Your pay is likewise insignificant until you classify it as peanuts or inadequate. Your emotions in response to these thoughts include anger, fear, frustration, envy or perhaps jealousy and it causes you to get upset, complain, be argumentative or even quit, plus you have the biological effects of job stress and burnout while you’re dealing with the issues, and sometimes long afterwards.

Alternatively, you could say your boss, work hours and pay are all fortunately not as bad as they could be, you’ve handled such challenges before and came out okay, or that it’s just a matter of time before things begin to improve like they always do. Your emotions in response to these more favorable thoughts might be to forgive, forget and to be more tolerable, plus you have the biological benefits of stress resistance. Minimally, you’re always working from a stronger foundation, rather than depending on things and others over which you have no control.

In both the bad and good scenarios, the reactions were caused by the meanings you assigned to an otherwise meaningless situation. The benefits of intentionally managing your thoughts to produce favorable emotions and actions are obvious. However, it’s easier just to react, suffer the ill effects of bad emotions or the lack of emotional control, and to go on complaining about the situation and thereby further compounding your difficulties and poor health. Why not blame somebody else, when actually it was the meaning you assigned to the situation that caused the problem to begin with.

Perhaps you’re thinking, what if the other person or the event actually was the problem rather than how you reacted to it? Certainly there are times when other people do things that cause you to feel bad or get angry. They behave badly, forget things, don’t honor their commitments, or do things they know will harm or upset you. Then what?

Before you know how to react your mind still needs to process what happened which means you still have to assign a meaning to the situation. Whether your reaction is automatic or intentional depends on what you want the outcome to be. For instance, if you want to address the situation calmly as a responsible adult, you might assign a more tolerable meaning so you can react calmly. If you don’t want to care about the situation, you might assign a neutral meaning and then react nonchalantly or do nothing. If you want your anger to come forth as a demonstration of your disgust, you might want to assign a horrible meaning so you can fly off in a rage and have a good reason to sustain your anger for as long as you like.
Alternatively, you can play roulette with your emotions and do whatever moves you, and then deal with any consequences.

If you’ve got a brain and the ability to reason, it doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, even tragic or catastrophic. You always have the option to reason and recognize your contentment, and the key to maintaining your contentment is developing the willingness or predisposition to recognize the acceptable middle ground rather than allowing yourself to experience the emotional roller coaster rides that life and career offer. Unfortunately, we haven’t done a very good job teaching you how to do this on the job, even though supervisors expect you to do so at the risk of being evaluated as emotional, immature, out of control or high maintenance.

One of the greatest challenges you’ll have attempting to recognize your contentment is the fact your brain works so fast. The thoughts that cause your negative reactions can occur faster than you can blink, and many times you may not even realize you had the thought. The key is paying attention to how you feel. Your emotions provide clues to what you were thinking, and if you feel sad, blue or angry, you need to pause and give yourself the benefit of a second better thought before the first gets you into hot water.

Try watching the TV news for people’s reactions to their good or bad circumstances. Their response determines what they do next, the effectiveness of their actions to address their situation, and also how others react towards them. It all begins with the initial meanings they assign to their situation. A person with a predisposition to recognize their contentment will appear calm and resilient. They tend to think clearly and will be able to make decisions and choices with greater ease than a person who lacks this state of mind. They seem frustrated or less tolerant, tend not to think clearly, often react inconsistently, and are not always certain what they want or what to do. It’s a person’s initial reaction to their circumstances that makes breaking news and reality TV so popular. We want to see what they do and imagine how we might react in the same situation.

Don’t mistake contentment for being laid back or settling for less. It provides a more solid foundation to everything you do. It’s a peaceful and resilient state of mind that enables you to think clearly, roll with the punches, get along, see things through, span the peaks and valleys, and get things done despite the inevitable challenges and disappointments that occur anytime you are expected to work with, for or through other people. In fact, it’s when you lack this state of mind that you find yourself in regrettable situations of lacking emotional control, resiliency and resolve, and therefore being neglected, avoided or taken advantage of.

Contentment is a good thing without which your life would be miserable because complete satisfaction is never possible. In fact, before the end of day tomorrow you’re likely to confront one or more challenges never anticipated. It might be a change of bosses, work hours or pay and benefits, and you will realize the only thing you truly have control over in this world is your ability to reason. When you’re able to master reasoning abilities by always recognizing the acceptable middle ground, your life and career will improve dramatically.

If after reading this article you’re still wondering whether it’s possible for you to be content even if not happy or entirely satisfied, consider how you were created to function: You think first, feel second, and then you take action based on how you feel. Otherwise you act without thinking or your emotions get in the way and you get the wrong results, no results and upset yourself and others.

Here’s the fun part. Because thinking always comes before feeling, you can improve how you feel and the effectiveness of what you do by changing how you think. For instance, you can think to feel rich without owning a dime. Empires have been built starting from nothing but just this one contented feeling. So maybe what you do is use more of your imagination to feel content whenever you like rather than allowing others the power to make you satisfied or dissatisfied.

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Author's Bio: 

Jeff Garton is a career coach, author and host of “Career Contentment Radio” on His background includes a career in HR with the Philip Morris companies and he now leads the worldwide Campaign To Retire Job Dissatisfaction. For more information, and to join the campaign, visit: