Need Should Inform Desire (On Contentment)

Contentment begins with aligning our desires with our needs.

Often, what we want and what we need are quite different from one another. Part of maturing as a human being is developing the ability to look beyond the former and embrace the latter, ideally to the point where they eventually converge such that what we need is actually what we want. The level of contentment we experience in our lives is directly related to our ability to do this willingly, intentionally, and successfully.

It should be mentioned that contentment is a distinctly different measure of our internal state from happiness. One does not guarantee the other. That said, while contentment may not always result in happiness, it is doubtful that a true state of happiness can be achieved without first acquiring some degree of contentment.

Our desires are rooted in some combination of hope and fear related to what we will or will not experience, acquire, and become in some imaginary future. Our needs, on the other hand, exist in the present moment as a matter of fact, separate from and independent of any feelings we may have about them. By realigning our attention and our will toward necessity, by accepting and addressing what we need to be, to do, and to have, by wanting this for ourselves before and above all else, we give ourselves a platform of truth off of which to grow, thrive, and to be content with our progress.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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