Having a tight grocery budget recently, I headed to a discount supermarket in search of good prices. One of the more expensive items on my list was a jug of salsa, a mainstay in our household. I knew from experience it would cost around $6, a big chunk of my small budget, so I searched the shelves hoping to find a store brand on sale. Unfortunately the store brand was priced at $6, but I found a brand name on sale for $3.99! My heart rejoiced, and with excitement I asked my son to grab the on-sale product.
It was then that I noticed a well-dressed, elderly lady in the aisle watching us. Feeling slightly self-conscious about my joyous outburst, I explained how excited I had been to find a name brand for $2 less than the store brand, since I usually bought store brands. She smiled in agreement, and spoke with grandmotherly authority, “To me, they’re just as good.”
Though our conversation was short, my fellow shopper’s words stuck with me. Based on her appearance, I am sure she could afford name brands and non-sale prices, but her air of confidence showed that she would not be fooled into spending more than she had to. To her, the store brand tasted as good as the brand name – not because it had been scientifically proven, but because she had decided that she would be content with it. Her words were those of a wiser generation, and we would do well to pay attention.
You see, our Starbucks-crazed generation has lost sight of the fact that our decisions can inform our desires. Haven’t we all been offered an upgrade at a restaurant, only to find it would cost us an extra $2 or $3? Suddenly, the upgrade seems less desirable, and we settle for the standard option. Or we go to a coffee shop with a limited amount of money, and though we would like to order the large size, we order what we can afford? What happens in each of these examples is that, once we decide what is important, our tastes line up with that decision.
Our human desires are fickle, and far too often we allow them to make our choices for us. When desires rule over decisions, our choices can lead us in directions that waste our time, money and life energy. Past generations learned through necessity that we do not always need more to be happy. In fact, our elders can teach us that in learning to live with less, we can become more content. We can decide what is important and choose to be happy with that. In doing so, we discover the power that contentment has to transform our lives.
In what area of your life could you choose to be more content today?