Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Finding Contentment — Photo Set

Photo Selections from a Recent Hike in the Woods 

Through the Trees. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016. All Rights Reserved. 

This past week has been an eventful one for my family and me. My wife celebrated her Birthday and we have had family visiting us here in North Carolina all the way from California in addition to the usual activities that life requires: frankly, we are busy, just like everyone else it seems. 

We live in a fast paced world, filled with responsibilities, tasks and goals—objectives to be completed, lists to be crossed off. In this environment, questions and worries arise in your mind like “Are you doing enough each day? Are you completing all of your projects or reaching your career ambitions at a satisfactory rate?” 

Mossy Bark. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016. All Rights Reserved. 

I know for myself as a guy in my twenties, I want to be successful, I want to be financially more stable, respected by others and feeling accomplished, and these are not bad goals, but there is a flaw in this sort of thinking. A defect that I believe many of us can relate too and may even struggle with in our lives. Do we take the time to appreciate our surroundings and live in the here and now, in the moment, or are we constantly trying to reach the next level, telling ourselves when I reach X, then I will be happy with my life. 

Truth be told, X may never happen, or it may not happen as quickly as we want, or when we reach X, what’s to stop us from then wanting Y, or Z? How do we measure something like successful, well-regarded, financial security? Focusing on the last of these, say you had a million dollars, why not 2 million, or 1 billion for that matter? 

The flaw with this thinking is that is shows a serious lack of a vital virtue that is easily overlooked: contentment. Being happy and enjoying the moment, where we are right now in life, with our allotment, without evaluating ourselves on the “impossible scale” of success. The person with the most toys doesn’t win if they are miserable in between their purchases – funny thing about new “stuff,” it generally is fun for about a week, and then it becomes old news, but I’m getting off track.   

Path by the Lake. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016. All Rights Reserved. 

You see, I have found that when I evaluate my life with these abstract criteria, or compare myself with those around me, I become discontent and impatient with where I am at in life. Setting goals and having ambition is a very important, I have written several blog articles on this topic (links below); however, like most things, ambition is a double-edged sword. Balance in all things is a good mantra to live by, placing undo emphasis on one’s career, financial status, or social position will lead to a chronic case of discontentment. 

A Passionate Life - Part 1 Link
A Passionate Life - Part 2 Link

What if you have made it to X, but you lose your job, or realize that your current job does not fulfill you as a person and so you decide to go back to school? Obviously you need a job or a new career, but are you still finding joy in the moments between the job hunt or until the semester starts, or have you moved on in your mind, “counted your chickens,” and envisioned your perfect new job or career? Life can be hard, very hard even, and anyone can be happy when things are going well, but it takes a person of true integrity and strength of character to be happy when things are not going as planned. 

The Old Oak. Photo by Charles Wolf. 
Impulsive Artistry © 2016. All Rights Reserved. 

These are some of the thoughts that I have been meditating on these past few weeks, trying to apply them to my own situation. I hope that this essay and accompanying photos will encourage you to take time during the day to appreciate the things in life that are beautiful, positive and amazing—sadly they are often the very things that we take for granted: family, a place to live, and even the beauty of the natural world around us. 

Here is a great way to work on contentment: I have found that art helps to remind me of the important things in life. Taking walks and hikes with my wife, centers me in the moment, spending time together, but also being out in nature. As those you of regularly follow this blog know, I love photography, and capturing these moments of natural beauty are wonderful activity as the pictures can later remind me of the joy and peace I felt when they were taken. On my wife’s Birthday, we took one of these excursions and hiked for several miles at William B Umstead State Park here in Raleigh, NC. 

It was a rainy day and we progressively became wetter as we went along the path between the dripping branches and leaves brimming with droplets. The path ran ahead, up hills and down, over streams and by a foggy lake. You may think how miserable, and yes it may sound that way, but I think that it was in those moments, when sun wasn’t shining and the rain was falling, that I found tranquility and contentment in the beauty of the woods. Take care, and I sincerely hope that you may find it as well.    


Raindrops on Reed Creek Lake, NC. Photo by Charles Wolf.  
Impulsive Artistry © 2016. All Rights Reserved.  

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