No one is a bigger fan of positive psychology than I am. I make a point each day to stop and give thanks for the many gifts I receive including the two most important ones—my good health along with the love and support of my family and friends.
Yet as much as I try to savor each passing moment, I do not walk around in a state of bliss. I experience moments of frustration and stress. I may wake up irritable for no particular reason. I can be discouraged by a setback on a project. Or I can be disappointed by the actions of someone I’m close to. Although these events trigger a sense of discontent, the associated feelings are transitory. I quickly bounce back to my positive outlook.
Divine discontent, however, is another matter. When divine discontent breaks through to my consciousness, I know that I need to make a change in my life. Instead of resisting or ignoring the uncomfortable emotion (hoping it will go away), I’ve learned to embrace it. Based on past experience, I now know that divine discontent signals that it is time for my heart and mind to grow and learn. It functions as an impetus for change and precedes a burst of creativity that results in a more satisfying life.
I begin by focusing attention on the condition that triggered the divine discontent. At this point, I feel as if I am entering a black tunnel with no light at the end of it. Yet if I am willing to enter the tunnel and keep walking, I emerge into brilliant daylight. I discover new goals, I have a renewed sense of excitement about the future and I feel my daily decisions are once again aligned with my heart’s desires.
Two examples come to mind. First, when I approached my 50th birthday, I realized that while I had succeeded professionally, I lacked a partner with which to share life’s journey. Although I tried to convince myself that I was happy being single, I longed for a solid, stable relationship with a spouse. Being alone on this milestone birthday made me very sad; however, the moment I acknowledged my divine discontent, I shifted my perspective. Nine months later, I met my wonderful husband, Dick, who personifies the qualities of stability and loyalty. Eighteen months later, we were married. Had I not acknowledged this discontent, I probably would still be single.
The second example led to a decision to lose weight and become fit. One ordinary morning, I stepped on the bathroom scale, and it broke. In that instant, I realized that I had been unhappy with my weight for my entire life. For years, I had tried to persuade myself that my weight didn’t matter. But it did matter, and the broken scale symbolized my broken promises to take care of my body. Acknowledging my divine discontent triggered a commitment to eat more healthfully and exercise regularly for the rest of my life.
Had I not acknowledged my discontent, I would have continued on the same path—one that ultimately would have led to serious medical problems or perhaps my premature death.
In both cases, once I embraced the divine discontent, I made different choices, and these new choices created conditions in my life in closer alignment with my core values. William Samuel, writing about this phenomenon, says it is like “pushing a canoe into a river where it is quickly caught up in the silent and effortless flow” or “like putting a seed in fertile ground.”
If you are in a state of divine discontent, particularly if you are unhappy with your weight or the condition of your body, take heart. Divine discontent is a message we send to ourselves that keeps us from standing still when it is time to learn and grow.
Listen to the message embedded in your discontent—the challenge is to grow something beautiful from this emotion. You can be confident that embracing the discontent will cause you to make different choices. These choices will result in a more fulfilling and joyful life—one that is consistent with your deepest needs, cherished values and highest vision.
"There is no security on Earth, there is only opportunity." General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964)