The Oxford English Dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being happy and satisfied.”
This dictionary definition sounds like a nice way to feel, doesn’t it? Oh, if we could just snap our fingers and be content with who we are and what we have.
Wouldn’t life be grand?
I’ve had the privilege of meeting and talking with a lot of women and men who live alone, and our conversations often turn to the subject of contentment: how to find it, how to keep it, and how to find it again once it has been lost.
Those on their own often feel a lack of something in their lives, and many have trouble letting go of a craving for things to be different.
I know. I’ve been there.
For years after my divorce, I had trouble seeing the good in myself and in my life. But with time, intention and practice, I was able to stop yearning for what I didn’t have and start appreciating what existed right in front of me.
It all began with an important first step — taking a hard look at myself.
While I’m no expert in survey design, I created the simple non scientific quiz below to help you assess where you are on the road to contentment.
Your results may light a new and hopeful way forward.
HOW CONTENT ARE YOU?
Circle the choice that best answers the questions below:
1. If asked, can you readily name your own positive personal qualities? How many come to mind?
A. 5 or more.
B. 1 to 4.
C. Nothing really comes to mind.
2. How would you describe your home?
A. Very “me” — I’ve made it my own.
B. It’s fine. I keep meaning to redecorate, but I never get around to it.
C. My home looks as tired as I feel.
3. How would you describe your success in letting go of old ways of thinking and of negative thoughts or behaviors that keep you anchored in the past?
A. I live in the present; it’s full steam ahead!
B. I still wallow in self-pity from time to time.
C. I can’t let go of regrets and obsess about the past.
4. Could you imagine planning a trip by yourself and traveling alone to a new or familiar destination?
A. In a heartbeat.
B. Maybe someday.
C. I can’t imagine traveling solo.
5. Does going alone to a café for a cup of coffee or grabbing a bite to eat at a local restaurant feel comfortable — even enjoyable?
A. I do it all the time.
B. Occasionally, but I feel self-conscious.
C. I’m just not ready.
6. Do you exercise, get enough sleep, and stay on top of health screenings?
A. Of course!
B. A little, but I could do more for myself.
C. Sadly, I’ve neglected my health and fitness.
7. How often do you pamper or reward yourself by taking some time just for you or by purchasing that little something special you’ve had your eye on?
A. As often as I can.
B. I tend to put others’ needs before my own.
C. I can’t remember the last time I pampered myself.
8. Can you imagine your life without a special someone on your arm?
A. I would enjoy sharing my life with someone special, but I could also be perfectly content with my “family of friends.”
B. Maybe, but not for long; I feel incomplete without a “one and only.”
C. Life doesn’t feel worth living when I’m not in love.
Calculate your total points using this scale:
3 points for each A answer
2 points for each B answer
1 point for each C answer
8 points: Contentment may feel elusive at the moment-beyond your grasp. But it can be found. You may benefit from talking with a professional counselor or spiritual adviser. Help and encouragement might also be found in grief support groups and other gatherings — in person or online — that offer emotional support and practical advice.
9-15 points: You experience feelings of contentment, but you know there’s more to be found. Continue to stretch yourself. Reach out to others. And “try on” healthy pursuits outside your comfort zone. Success and achievement breed contentment. You might also find inspiration and a needed jump-start in workshops, lectures, and retreats devoted to personal growth and development.
16 points: Good for you — what you have is precious. Being content with yourself opens up all kinds of possibilities. It enables you to feel peace and joy, whether you are alone or in a committed relationship. It is an invaluable inner springboard on which you can launch all things imaginable!
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com.