Contentment, Comparison, and Complacency

Written by Jim Stovall


Much of what we seek as we strive for this thing we call success is actually contentment. Contentment is an elusive and complex state. To be content, we must accept things as they are but not necessarily accept the current condition as a permanent situation. Contentment comes only when we judge ourselves in light of who we know we should be and can be.

There is never any comparison involved in contentment. Contentment cannot be achieved if we compare ourselves to what other people do or what they may have. I find many unhappy people around the world failing in an attempt to reach someone else’s goal. Only you can determine who you are and where you want to be.

While there is no comparison in contentment, there is also no complacency. Being content with where we are does not mean we are satisfied to stay in our current position. If you are taking a road trip from your home to a destination 200 miles away, as you reach the halfway point, you will have traveled 100 miles. You may be very content with your progress thus far as long as you don’t compare it to your destination or become complacent and accept your journey half traveled.


Your academic performance as a fifth grader may have been judged exceptional, and therefore, your teacher gave you an A on your report card. If you compare yourself to students who didn’t perform as well, you might become complacent and stop studying hard and doing the things it took to achieve an A on your report card. If you’re performing as an A-level fifth grader when you arrive in the 10th grade, you will likely receive an F on your report card and fail the course.

We must find a balance between determining who we are and where we are without comparing ourselves with others or becoming complacent and accepting our current status.

Learning is a lifelong process which is why I believe the graduation ceremony is called a commencement. A commencement means the beginning of a process, not the end.

If you had studied computer science and had become a leading authority in the world 10 years ago or even five years ago, you could have achieved many things; but if you compared yourself to less-accomplished people at that time and became complacent, your five-year-old computer skills would be totally obsolete today.

The great mountaineer, Sir Edmond Hillary, had many failed attempts to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He felt each of these expeditions had achieved a certain level of success that he knew would eventually culminate in his reaching the top of the world. He became famous for giving speeches to raise money between his various attempts to climb the mountain. On each occasion, he would stand in front of a giant mural of Mount Everest, and as he closed his remarks, he would turn and speak directly to the mountain, proclaiming, “I will eventually succeed because you can’t get any bigger, and I can.”

As you go through your day today, be content with where you are without comparing yourself to others or becoming complacent about the future.

Today’s the day!

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