Cultivating Contentment (Part One): An excerpt from Chapter Seven, It’s Not About the Sex

Swimming with the Dolphins

In her book The Wealthy Spirit, author Chellie Campbell adopts a brilliant sea metaphor as she suggests that you surround yourself with dolphinsHer financial stress reduction workshop teaches students that there are your people, and the rest of the world; it’s your job in life to find your pod. If you have too much of a need to be liked by others, this will cause suffering. Campbell explains that there are three types of people in the world:

  1. Dolphins swim together in harmony. They are clever, playful, and communicate exceptionally well. They cooperate during hunts and are protective of one another.
  1. Sharks bite you when you least expect it. They tend to attack when they feel threatened, and require a safe space around them.
  1. Tuna get eaten by others. They don’t have much backbone and blame others for their misfortune. Tuna also tend to be needy.

Take a moment to identify the sharks and tuna in your life. Who are they? Who are your dolphins, those people who love you no matter what? You need to continue nurturing these relationships for the times when you feel vulnerable. Life is too short to waste swimming with sharks and tuna, but of course we all possess fishy qualities. Once you identify the unproductive characteristics in yourself, you’re more likely to identify them in others. In a way, acknowledging who the dolphins are in your life is like expressing gratitude. Counting your blessings on a regular basis is another tool that Positive Psychologists say contributes to contentment.

What are you most grateful for in your life today?

Seth: I’m most grateful for my recovery because everything that is good in my life has followed from that process.

Colin: To have a different experience of life today. But most importantly, and what makes all of that possible, is having a conscious connection with a power greater than myself.

Mario: That I’m present. That I can see how wonderful my life is, instead of chasing after all of the things that could have happened.

Robert: I’m grateful for my relationships, including the relationship with myself, my Higher Power, my friends, my family. Grateful for my job, my home, and my health.

Gratitude has received newfound attention because it’s such a simple and impactful practice. Everyone, from Oprah to the twelve-step community to Positive Psychologists, teach its benefits. Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a psychologist and author, shares the following ways gratitude boosts happiness in her book The How of Happiness: gratitude magnifies fulfilling life events, helps you feel better about yourself, and is useful to balance out the negative effects of disappointing experiences.

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