5 Ways to Stop Wanting More Without Settling for Less


Many people invest their hope for a happier life in future achievements. For you, this could be a higher salary, a family milestone, or a more relaxed lifestyle.

In reality, there will always be another achievement on the horizon. Happiness can only be enjoyed today, in the present moment. (See also: This Is Why You Settle (and How to Stop))

Accordingly, we find ourselves in this daily tension between pursuing more and enjoying what we have. Here are a few tips for being happier with what you have today.

1. Identify Your True Sources of Happiness

It's all too easy to mistake money for happiness. After all, there is a certain fulfillment and excitement that comes when larger and larger amounts of money are acquired. Unless your passion in life is green paper, you really have no interest in money. You desire what money can buy. (See also: A Lot of People Don't Understand What Money Is — Do You?)

But then again, unless you're an extreme hoarder, you don't really desire to own things. You desire the enjoyment you derive from using the things you own. What's the point of all this? Understand what you actually want and don't waste your time on anything else.

If your goal for more money is spending more time with the family, stop worrying about the money and start spending more time with your family. There are ways you can cut straight to the core desire, and the fewer middlemen, the better.

Take the time to actually write down your priorities. Create a budget based on those priorities and begin identifying where you are spending money but not deriving any enjoyment. You can then shift your allotment of time and money to align with your true priorities.

2. Set Attainable Goals

Achievement is a relative term. For one person, getting featured positively in the local newspaper is a once-in-a-lifetime type success. For another, getting elected to Congress is the minimum entry for their ultimate ambition.

The personal fulfillment we derive from our achievements depends entirely upon how we view them. By setting finite, attainable goals for ourselves, and then celebrating each victory, we allow ourselves to enjoy the journey instead of bemoaning what we haven't yet attained. Break down your ultimate goal into quantifiable steps, so that each step you take is an accomplishment you can celebrate.

3. Celebrate What's Meaningful

You'll find "enjoy the little things" on a lot of these lists. That sounds nice, but it's not as though we can just make ourselves enjoy things we don't find enjoyable. We can, however, celebrate the moments that are truly meaningful to us.

The key is living in the now and recognizing when it's time to stop and celebrate. Your responsibilities and pursuits are always a text away. Your ability to enjoy what you have depends on your capacity to stop and celebrate what is meaningful today.

Go back to your priority list. Spend a few moments each day thinking about your top priorities and what they mean to you today. If family is the most important, spend a few moments celebrating your family each week and verbally affirming each member and why they mean so much to you.

4. Prioritize Your Community

If there's one thing I've found to be true in my life, it's that what I'm doing and where I'm doing it aren't nearly as important as who I'm with. Your community will account for much of your satisfaction and happiness in life. And just like the what and the where, you have complete control over the who.

Don't invest your time in negative people. If you find yourself connecting best with negative people, there are probably some painful wounds in your life that need healing. Spending time with positive, uplifting people is contagious. Spending time around people with correct priorities rubs off. Spending time with people who are deeply committed to their friends and family prepares you to foster those same meaningful relationships in your own life.

5. Give & Receive

It's not all about us, and understanding this truth allows us to be happy with what we have. By investing in others, we allow their accomplishments to increase our own happiness and satisfaction. By receiving from others, we allow ourselves to realize we aren't alone — it's not us against the world — and we set ourselves up to benefit from the victories of others.

One practical way to do this is by giving to charity. Research shows that those who give and volunteer are actually happier and more deeply satisfied with their lives.

But you don't have to invest only in strangers. What are your friends' dreams? What is your cousin's dream? What is your son's dream? Invest in their success. Invest in where they want to go, and you'll find their success as rewarding, if not more so, than your own.

Happiness Is Not a Quest

The most important thing to understand is that happiness is not a quest. You will never find or achieve it. You can be happy today or you can not be happy today. In many ways, the choice is entirely yours.

You can never "arrive" at happiness. If you can't enjoy life with $30k a year, you won't enjoy it with $50k. Spend a few minutes today thinking about what is truly important to you and allow yourself to enjoy what you already have.

Are you happy with where you are right now? Why? Or, why not?

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Guest's picture
Brett Vaughan

"The most important thing to understand is that happiness is not a quest. You will never find or achieve it. You can be happy today or you can not be happy today. In many ways, the choice is entirely yours."

I have to say, personally speaking... this is the most powerful part of the entire blog to me.

It works the same way for couples trying to become pregnant. They try so hard that failure is inevitable, it's only when they stop pushing so hard for it, and let it be, that nature does what it does best.

I love this post, I doubt I can speak highly enough about it. It's something I have had to come to the hard way, because back when I was trying to adjust my mindset, there was no clear and easy list like here. I really hope this reaches a lot of people, because it's all in your mind, it's what you do with life, and it's so gratifying to see that there are others like me out there, enlightened enough to pass along this wisdom.

Thank you so much.

Jacob McMillen's picture

Thanks Brett! It's a life-changing revelation for sure, and I hope this article helps others experience what you and I both have found to be so powerful.