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Career Contentment

If you’re just starting to learn about career contentment, it’s difficult to understand at first because we’re conditioned to think like human resources. We learned that job satisfaction is the key to our success and fulfillment, and we assume that contentment means settling for less. But when you relearn how to think like a human, you can see clearly how the opposite is closer to the truth. Your decision from within to be content or discontent is a far more powerful than any outside-in efforts to make you satisfied or engaged.


The graphic that you see here is a pin that ASTD produced. They became excited after they finally got it. You can get it too, when you let go of your conditioning and think of the power that employees have to control their career.

It’s like this: You know those gut feelings you get when you enjoy your job and it feels right even though you’re not entirely satisfied and other people are complaining? Or how about those times when it seems like everyone else is happy, but you have this gut sense that you should be someplace else?

The amazing thing about these feelings is their authenticity. Your judgment can’t be persuaded by how bad or good your work conditions are. You genuinely want to be there or you don’t, and efforts to make you satisfied or engaged are important, but secondary. This is career contentment.

People don’t work just to fulfill the purposes of employers. They work to fulfill their own purposes which are typically to care for themselves and their families, make contributions and achieve recognition. A person’s purposes will evolve as they age and their interests evolve, and they will change their job anytime they believe that their purposes are not being fulfilled. This is no different than how employers will replace workers when they are unable to fulfill the employer’s purposes.

In order to retain employees and keep them focused on fulfilling purposes other than their own, employers must persuade them. This is traditionally accomplished by the use of rewards and by making an employee’s work conditions both satisfying and engaging.

It’s logical that employers should have complete control over the jobs, rewards and conditions used to persuade employees. This means, however, that an employee’s decision to be satisfied and engaged is first, codependent on their labor and loyalties being applied to fulfilling the employer’s purposes; and, secondly, their satisfaction is conditional on whether the employer has fulfilled their expectations. Employees can’t simply choose to have intrinsic or extrinsic job satisfaction. And when it’s all said and done, it’s up to employees to fulfill their own purposes, unless their individual purposes are closely aligned with their employer’s purposes.

In order to fulfill their purposes, and to stay on track with their purposes as they continue to evolve, it’s also logical that employees should have complete control over their life and career. This is achieved by control of their thoughts and emotions to manage their decisions. Employers can’t simply control how an employee chooses to think, or the decisions they make in order to fulfill their own purposes. And although employees have no control over their employer, boss, job, pay, benefits or other things they rely on for job satisfaction, they do have exclusive control over their emotion to be content or discontent in regard to these matters. On the job, this emotion is referred to as career contentment, and it is controlled exclusively by employees.

The idea that an employee’s control of their emotions to be content or discontent is more powerful than an employer’s efforts to make them satisfied or engaged works like this: Let’s assume that an employee is engaged in their work and their employer has made them satisfied. The employer would assume that all is well, and so might the employee. However, if the employee’s purposes change suddenly, they may choose at anytime to be discontent and leave, and without regard to whether they believe that their work conditions are satisfying or engaging.

Now let’s assume that the employee is experiencing some form of job dissatisfaction, and they are not consistently engaged in their work as a result. If the employee genuinely believes that their job is worth fighting for, because it keeps them on track to fulfill their purposes (pay bills, make contributions, etc.), they can still choose to be content and stay, and even continue to perform well, independently of their dissatisfying and disengaging work conditions.

What this shows us is that while employees can’t feel differently than their employer controlled conditions will allow they still have the human ability to flex their emotions to rise above their satisfying or dissatisfying work conditions in order to fulfill the purposes that they believe are most important to them. They do this by leveraging their emotion of career contentment, and without regard to whether or not they have been made satisfied or engaged.

Humans leverage their emotions all the time to rise above their circumstances. For example, if you feel nervous before stepping onto the podium to speak, you can think to muster the emotion of confidence to improve your delivery. If you are procrastinating because of having to pay the bills, you can think to muster the emotion of joy to improve your attitude and make this task more pleasurable. If you dread going to the gym for a workout, you can think to muster the emotion of enthusiasm so that you hop out of bed and work an extra half hour on the treadmill. Your willingness to change how you think despite unfavorable conditions or circumstances is dependent on how important or meaningful your purposes are for doing these things. But unfortunately, employees can’t simply muster job satisfaction or engagement, because these are not human emotions.

As you browse the following sections, we challenge you to let go of how you were conditioned to think and open your mind to a new way of thinking that enhances how you experience your life and career – from a contentment point of view.

We predict that you’ll be glad you did. If you really want to retain your best employees, and you’d like to see them naturally engaged, self-motivated and productive, and you’d like to accomplish this without spending tons of money, teach them how to achieve and maintain their career contentment.

Q&A

What is career contentment? Answer > > >

What is career contentment?

It’s a human emotion that employees rely on to manage their career and fulfill their purposes independently of work conditions which may be satisfying, dissatisfying, engaging or disengaging. .

Is it the same as job satisfaction? Answer > > >

Is it the same as job satisfaction?

No! Job satisfaction is not a human emotion but a condition that is controlled by employers in order to persuade employees. Employees can’t simply choose to have job satisfaction because jobs and rewards are controlled exclusively by employers.

Is it the same as employee engagement? Answer > > >

Is it the same as employee engagement?

No! Employee engagement is not a human emotion but a condition that is controlled by employers in order to persuade employees. Employees can’t simply choose to be engaged without the job and/or changes to the job content being made by employers.

Is it the same thing as an employee strength? Answer > > >

Is it the same thing as an employee strength?

Yes! Contentment is a human emotion and strength. However, the strengths movement is dependent on the cooperation of employers to enable employees to utilize their strengths. An employee can exercise their emotion of career contentment independently of what employers do or don’t do.

What's the big idea? Answer > > >

What's the big idea?

Employers are spending huge sums of money attempting to make employees satisfied and engaged, when employees are influenced more by their own decision to be content or discontent – and their decision may have nothing to do with whether they are satisfied or engaged. Employers would be wise to help employees to achieve and maintain their career contentment, and then capitalize on their natural engagement and self-motivation to improve productivity and retention.

Which is most important? Answer > > >

Which is most important?

Job satisfaction, employee engagement and strengths are all important. But outside-in programs that are used to persuade employees are never as powerful as what employees can do for themselves, from within. Unless an employee decides that they have career contentment, these expensive outside-in programs are powerless and pointless.

How do you get it? Answer > > >

How do you get it?

Career contentment offers employees 3 advantages over job satisfaction or employee engagement: it provides the emotional link to help a person identify their calling and purpose, to enable their enduring resilience to persevere, and their self-motivation to perform despite their circumstances. Employees can experience these advantages by managing the 4 principles of career contentment: choice of meaningful work, control of self-reliance, control of thoughts and emotions, and control of their middle ground reasoning abilities.

Can employers provide it? Answer > > >

Can employers provide it?

No! Employers have no control over an employee’s choice of emotions. But what employers can do is teach employees how to achieve and maintain their career contentment so as to increase their potential for retaining employees and enabling greater levels of productivity and individual fulfillment.

Why didn't we know about this before? Answer > > >

Why didn't we know about this before?

We are conditioned to expect that employers should make us satisfied and to complain or quit if we don’t get it. We were never trained how to rely on our contentment as a source of personal empowerment and resilience. Also, we have wrongfully assumed that contentment means only to settle for less. In reality, it refers to our self-sufficient ability to endure in situations where satisfaction isn’t always possible.

What is satisfaction really? Answer > > >

What is satisfaction really?

It is a condition, like temperature, health or wealth are conditions. If hot, thinking that you’re cold won’t change the condition of temperature. If you’re sick, thinking that you’re well won’t improve your health condition. And if you’re poor, thinking that you’re rich won’t put money in your back account. In this same manner, thinking or being persuaded to think that you’re satisfied or engaged won’t give you a better boss, pay increase, longer vacation, etc. People can’t feel differently than their conditions will allow. And because you lack control over the people and things that can make you satisfied or engaged, the probability exists you may never be completely satisfied. This explains why each generation entering the workforce complains about the same job dissatisfactions as the generation before them, and despite ongoing efforts by employers to improve job satisfaction.

What is contentment, really? Answer > > >

What is contentment, really?

It is a human emotion that can be experienced at will or independently of one’s conditions. By learning how to think or reason in a non-negative manner, a person is able to experience the emotions of contentment, confidence, joy, optimism, excitement, enthusiasm, or gratitude, regardless of their actual conditions. You can think to experience the emotion of confidence associated with being wealthy without owning a dime. The emotion of contentment can be experienced simply by reasoning to recognize an agreeable middle ground between the conditions that are causing your satisfaction or dissatisfaction. A boss is a boss (middle ground) until you label him a jerk to cause your own dissatisfaction. A boss is a boss until you label her a coach to cause your own satisfaction, and that condition will last only until your boss upsets you. Stay focused on the agreeable middle ground.

How does this relate to career contentment?

See above, “What is Career Contentment.”

Click here to print all the answers.



Do You Have Career Contentment

See the following two statements to see why career contentment trumps job satisfaction in importance to your career?

Career contentment is a peaceful state of mind I get from work that fulfills my calling and highest purposes for working.

Genuine career contentment can’t be purchased by me, given to me or imposed on me. It’s a state of mind I choose to recognize from within.

The positive feelings of accomplishment and flow I thought were job satisfaction are really contentment, and are possible even if my job conditions are dissatisfying.

Contentment stays with me when I change jobs, careers or employers while the job satisfactions stay behind with the employer.

Contentment is a major source of personal empowerment, resilience and success that was previously overlooked due to my preoccupation or love affair with job satisfaction.

Only if I decide I’m content to stay in my job can employers hope to make me satisfied, engaged, or make use of my strengths. All these things are secondary to my contentment

Contentment doesn’t mean “settling for less” but refers to my self-sufficiency to persist and endure to fulfill my highest purposes with or without job satisfaction.

Contentment represents the agreeable middle ground whereas job satisfaction is an either/or proposition. Either I have it or I don’t, but I can always choose to be content.

With contentment as an option, complaining about dissatisfaction wastes time and reveals a lack of control over my state of mind and career to get what I desire.

Job satisfaction is not a state of mind or feeling I control but a condition budgeted for and controlled by employers to attract, motivate and retain me.

Whether job satisfaction is intrinsic or extrinsic doesn’t matter. I can’t have either without the job which is controlled by employers. But even without a job I still have a career or choice of work, and control over my state of mind and contentment.

My calling is not to job satisfaction, and all my hard work, education and sacrifices are to fulfill my highest purposes which are more important to me than job satisfaction.

In order for me to have job satisfaction, someone has to do something to fulfill my expectations first. I can’t simply choose to be satisfied.

Because I lack control over the people and things that make me satisfied, the probability exists that I may never be completely satisfied.

The conditions for my satisfaction to exist can’t be sustained because people and situations evolve and no one and nothing is absolutely perfect. I can always find reasons to complain.

Employers can’t possibly satisfy all employees all the time at the same time. When I expect satisfaction I’m giving myself reasons to complain about dissatisfaction.

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Do Employers Get It

Employers understand that retention and engagement programs are never 100% effective. Now they know why. Or it’s starting to become clear.

Employers insist that the problems they need to solve are job dissatisfaction and employee disengagement. However, these are merely symptoms of a bigger problem. This means that simply offering employees more job satisfactions or new and improved engagement programs is not the best solution.

Since the late 1970s, job dissatisfaction has become a sustained industry due to the introduction of numerous programs that satisfy, develop, promote, involve, engage, recognize, value and retain. But despite implementing these programs, employees are continuing to complain and quit, and not just because they are dissatisfied or disengaged. Even in the best jobs, it’s the nature of employees to find something to complain about. And they will leave if their purposes for working evolve, and when they feel strongly compelled to pursue those purposes as part of their life or career plan.

Here’s the real problem. We already know from trying that complete satisfaction can never be sustained in any job. So, by causing employees to expect that employers should make them satisfied, and chasing after them with job satisfactions, retention bonuses and engagement programs when they become disgruntled, employees have become conditioned to complain or quit when they don’t get what they want. Employers are unintentionally fueling the very problems they are investing to prevent. They are creating expectations they can’t always fulfill due to circumstances they can’t always control.

Circumstances like the failed economy, global competition, weather, war and terrorism that can affect an employer’s ability to keep their employees satisfied.

The other problem, which is also the solution that we tend to overlook, is that we forgot to teach employees how to be content with what they have, without complaining about what they can’t have, or despite circumstances which can’t always be made satisfying or engaging. This is the whole idea of career contentment training.

Career contentment provides employees with a new option. Rather than complain, bargain or quit in response to their inevitable job dissatisfactions, employees can choose to be content until they can create a solution that will turn their situation around. The fruits of an employee’s contented mind are, first, the resilience to persist toward the fulfillment of one’s purposes, despite the dissatisfactions; and second, the improved performance that comes from not wasting time and emotional energy by complaining.

Employers also have new options with career contentment. Rather than continuing to implement retention and engagement programs that may have no effect, employers can increase the effectiveness of these programs before they’re implemented by first teaching employees how to be content without complaining. By taking this preliminary step, employers may find that it’s unnecessary to implement retention and engagement programs, except to insure that employees are maintaining their own career contentment. Employers may also find that productivity improves and that they are investing less to fix problems resulting from complaints due to job stress and dissatisfaction.

Today, Generations X and Y are already showing signs of resisting efforts by employers to make them satisfied or engaged. They realize, along with other employees, that jobs and job satisfactions are here today, but could be gone tomorrow. So what these young workers are doing is exercising control of their emotions to be content or discontent, independently of their work conditions which they expect should always be made satisfying, even though this can’t always be possible.

The last thing we should be doing is further conditioning employees to expect that employers will make them satisfied or engaged because this isn’t always possible. The first thing we should be doing, is teaching employees how to achieve and maintain their own career contentment, and how to use it to rise above their inevitable dissatisfactions so as to improve their resilience and self-motivation to perform and persevere, no matter what might happen. The reality is there is no job, career or employer on earth that is absolutely perfect or consistently satisfying. Even if there was, employees would find some reason to complain – unless we teach them how to be content without complaining.

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The Employment Mindset


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Recognizing Career Contentment

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