The 5 Fundamental Skills to Master for True Contentment Everyday
Monday May 23, 2022

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“Self-provoked change presents the opportunity to welcome a richer and deeply fulfilling everyday experience. Whether we want to improve our health, strengthen our relationships, hone our craft, or simply know more than we did yesterday, change presents the foothold for an elevated life and lasting contentment.” —October 14th entry in The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment

The truth about contentment is that at first it seems impossible, similar to a minuscule seed we sow that the package it arrived in states it will become this grand flower/plant/shrub/even a tree! For weeks, even as we water, provide warm, whatever the necessary growing conditions are, we still will not see if our efforts will pay off. We cannot see the roots sprouting and strengthening the seeding to eventually push itself up above the soil.

At the beginning of the journey toward living an everyday life grounded in true contentment, the feelings of doubt and frustration that our efforts were actually fruitless predominate our mind, and we wonder if the investment is worth our energy, time and discomfort. This feeling is natural and necessary. After all, as I share in the Epilogue of my new book, The Road to Le Papillon, the third stage of becoming a butterfly is the most difficult, the most painful, and the time when we may not recognize or understand what is happening, even though we have chosen consciously and intentionally this new path forward.

Why is it painful? Why is it difficult?

As we choose to learn new skills, we are working out muscles that have had barely any exercise because we did not realize we possessed them all along. Yep, we know we have a brain, but we didn’t know we could be the masters of it, or at least we didn’t know how. As well, the journey of self and societal examination may reveal truths about who we thought we had to be that we actually can let go of as we choose to be our true selves. Such a discovery may cause us to become angry that we believed such a limiting way of life, a limiting way of engaging and enjoying life was how we had to travel and because we know we are mortal, we feel we have wasted valuable time. Such emotions as we journey through toward becoming a butterfly, toward living a life of true contentment, is natural and necessary.

During my two most recent book talks and signings (one virtual on April 26 – watch the hour of conversation and readings here hosted by Roundabout Books; and the other on May 20th in Wallowa County hosted by The Bookloft – pics of this event are seen here in this post), I shared a list of five fundamentals that provide the necessary foundation for building a life of true contentment. This list was something I have never shared before so succinctly, and as a handful of readers thanked me for including it in the talks, I thought I should put it into a blog post and share it with all readers of TSLL.

5 Fundamentals for Building the Foundation of True Contentment

It is important to note that the order is not important. No one fundamental is more important than the other. Without any one of these fundamentals, your foundation for lasting true contentment is too weak to be sustained. However, this was the order I shared them in for each of the talks, so I wanted to continue to do so.

1. Understand how the mind works

“Living mindfully versus mindlessly sounds quite minor on the surface, but a sizable chasm exists between the two in terms of the quality of one’s life.” —an excerpt from the October 4th entry in The Road to Le Papillon

Think of your mind like a car, the most powerfully and masterfully created automobile. Let’s go with a Rolls Royce. You need it get around, but if you want to successfully arrive where you want to go and do so for many years to come, you need to know how to maintain it, how the gear mechanisms work, and how to drive it and understand what all the dials and knobs, etc. are and do. The same can be said for your mind.

Sure you have a brain, but are you in control of it? You can be. But to learn how, it will take conscious effort and time. As well as regular practice.

Posts to further your exploration of this topic:

2. Understand your emotions, strengthen your Emotional Intelligence

Regardless of the outward emotions we express — jovial celebration upon reaching a goal, utter anguish and pain due to loss, and anything in between — allow yourself to be human, because no matter how amazing you are on your best days, you are human. Showing your emotions in a healthy, constructive way does not mean you are weak; it means you are human. You have a heart, you have dreams, you have feelings. Listen to it, follow them, feel them.” —an excerpt from the September 21st entry in The Road to Le Papillon

We each are human. Therefore, we have emotions. To avoid feeling any emotion is to throw away a key to better not only knowing ourselves, but humankind. No, we are not all the same in how we feel and why we feel it; that would be an error and a practice in judging, a practice that creates stereotypes. No, what I am suggesting is all of our emotions are valid, but it is our responsibility to take the time to understand why we personally are feeling what we are feeling – what need isn’t being met, perhaps we have been conditioned to feel a certain way and don’t realize it, perhaps we suppress certain emotions because we don’t want a certain response from those in our lives, etc..

By becoming a student of our emotions, we strengthen our self-awareness which enables us to be more aware of others and thereby strengthens our ability to respond rather than react. All of these concepts have been discussed in detail on the blog and/or podcast and books, and our ability to exercise responding rather than reacting, to be constructive in our actions toward ourselves and others, directly dances with our ability to know our emotions.

Posts to further your exploration on this topic:

3. Understand and Practice Communicating Nonviolently

“Patience, observation, awareness, and honest communication of needs: these are also components of trust. Others cannot connect with us (if they want to, and some will not) if we do not share with them what we need to feel — loved, seen, heard — and we cannot connect meaningfully with others if we do not listen and observe what they in turn share with us.” —an excerpt from the April 22nd entry in The Road to Le Papillon

Unconsciously, if we were fortunate to have a parental figure or adults in our lives as a child who practiced the skill of nonviolent communication, then we may already practice through being nurtured the four steps of non-violent communication – 1) observation – state what happened – concrete, specific, void of judgment or opinion; 2) State how the events that happened made you feel – making sure it is a specific, actual feeling that you felt; 3) Share specifically what you need (see paragraph below to understand what you needed but didn’t feel you received which is why you need to communicate); 4) Request, once there is a moment of understanding between the two parties, what you need in order to fulfill the need. The key is to not speak about or make assumptions about why the other party did what they did; rather you only know how you feel and why you felt it and what would fulfill your need. This knowledge arrives when we take the time to get to know ourselves which is what #4 and #5 on today’s list require us to do in order to have lasting contentment.

Regarding Step #3: “According to NVC teachings, all of the emotions we experience when we’re upset are connected to an unmet need, which is a requirement for contentment. Rosenberg found that human needs universally fall into one of a handful of categories, including connection, honesty, peace, play, physical well-being, a sense of meaning, and autonomy.”

Posts to further your exploration on this topic:

4. Honor Yourself and Knowing How to Be Self-Full

“As we begin to explore ourselves, our talents, our strengths, and our curiosities, it can be incredibly difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible to know what goes against our nature. But so long as we choose to do the homework of getting to know ourselves, we begin to understand conflicting approaches or ways of living.” —an excerpt from the November 28th entry in The Road to Le Papillon

This is the fun part if we have the courage to let go of the limiting beliefs of society that we have unconsciously accepted as ‘rules of living’. We honor ourselves by following our curiosity, by setting boundaries for ourselves and respecting the boundaries of others thereby creating the potential to build healthy relationships, relationships we want to be a part of. To honor ourselves is to live courageously without guarantees because we will be stepping into the unknown, but if we know ourselves and continue to do the homework of what holds our curiosities, the curiosity will be stronger than the fear, and that is when the magic begins to happen.

Posts to further your exploration on this topic:

5. Be able to Discern the Difference Between Society’s Voice and Your True Self

“Defaults are easier to fall into that we may first think, especially if we are applauded for going along, for not going against the crowd, which would force people to consider new ideas, to see things differently. And they may make it easier to sleep at night . . . for a while.” —an excerpt from the April 22nd entry in The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment

By utilizing critical thinking skills, you can quickly ascertain if you are blindly following or conversely, thinking for yourself. However, critical thinking is a skill that must be taught in order to learn and practice in our lives. The fundamental skill in my classroom as I taught AP Language & Communication was critical thinking. In chapter nine and ten in The Road to Le Papillon I share multiple examples of how I taught this skill and how opportunities show up in our everyday lives to apply it.

However, I must caution, once you have the skills of critical thinking, as you begin to examine all of the ideas you have accepted as true that have guided you on your life journey, you will have some confrontations with yourself. You may become angry with yourself as you realize you blindly followed. You may become irritated that you didn’t trust your intuition or inner voice because it didn’t align with where society indirectly (or directly) wanted you to go. While you must let yourself feel these emotions, understand they are a natural part of the journey toward knowing and embracing your true self. Observing now what you are realizing to be true ensures you won’t let such a mistake happen again. You are ‘righting’ the steering wheel, and that is a powerful correction. In fact, I would argue it is not a correction, as the path that lead you to where you are provided valuable moments of experience to strengthen your appreciation to where you are going and how you will now travel.

Posts to further your exploration on this topic:

Our lives are a classroom, and we are the forever student if we choose to be. The awesome news is that with every skill on today’s list that we add to our toolbox, our lives become more enjoyable, more delicious to savor, and even when something sour occurs, we have more confidence to trust that we will be able to handle it well and move beyond it rather than avoid it which would halt our progress of growth. That is what true contentment looks like in our lives. A steadiness of traveling through our everydays.

As you read each entry in The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment, keep these five fundamental skills in the back of your mind. Keep practicing them a little bit each week, deepening your understanding of them, strengthening their ability to become habituated, but also know that it must be a conscious choice to use them. Once you do so, you are living mindfully, you are living in the present and you are able to witness and experience awesome moments in your everyday more fully as you see them more vibrantly, savoring them deeply and grateful for their occurrence.

Remember that seed you sowed at the beginning of today’s post? Well, in time, once it has pushed through the soil, as you then continue to care for it and then plant it where it will thrive, in time, with each passing year, your minuscule seed will become an awe-inspiring garden. All you have to do is give it time, conscious care and nurturing patience. *Deep Breath* All of us can do that, we just have to choose to.

Peonies that have been growing in my mother’s garden for more than two decades. Each year they bloom with more strength, offering more and more blooms and beauty.

Tour her entire peony garden here.

Wishing you a wonderful start to your week. Thank you for stopping by today. Bonne journée.

17 thoughts on “The 5 Fundamental Skills to Master for True Contentment Everyday

  1. Thank you Shannon .

    I love this quotation from Maya Angelou :

    “Do the best that you can until you know better.
    Then, when you know better, do better “

    And this one, from Eleanor Roosevelt :

    “ it’s your life………but only if you choose to make it so . “

    And this one , from Theodore Roosevelt :
    “ do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are . “

    Have a wonderful week ?

  2. I love to browse through your connecting links. I always learn something, and usually get to see something quite beautiful and inspiring. Today I went and saw your mother’s peony garden…it is so beautiful and restful. Thank you for the peek!

  3. Shannon, thank you for listing “The List”! And for all the links to related posts, such good good stuff. I shall happily wander through and re-visit it all this week in the morning, along with “The Road to Le Papillion” daily meditations. I just had a thought for your next daily meditation book,(you see how I did that??)–“The Road to Oneself–Discovering Your Own Le Papillon”. Or something like that.
    And oh your mother’s peonies, so beautiful. I don’t have peonies–yet–but my hydrangeas are looking quite fabulous right now, if I do say so myself. And this morning I discovered a dragonfly resting in a windowbox stuffed with pansies and creeping jenny. Still cool and misty here today, a rarity that I am thoroughly enjoying. You and Norman have a lovely day–XO Rona

    1. Rona what are you waiting for? You MUST get some peonies?. Although hydrangeas look stunning and last a lot longer than peonies. I have and love both. Have a great week. Kameela xx

      1. Kameela, you are absolutely correct! And I think I have just the spot–an old raised veg bed that had to be abandoned when the tree canopy spread and shut out most of the afternoon summer sun. I’ll build it back up a bit, amend the soil, and happily search for a root to plant this fall. Thanks for nudge!! ?XO Rona

  4. Shannon~

    I loved how you incorporated your thoughts from The Road to Le Papillon in this post.

    I especially resonated with No. 5. Although, I usually thought differently than the crowd, at times it was just easier to follow along. Living in a small town has attributed to that a lot, but here I am in my early 50s and I find myself more and more doing what brings me joy. Your blog/podcast/books have had a lot to do with that.

    Thank you!


    1. Michelle, So happy to hear you are finding your true self is coming forth more freely and that you are seeing a positive difference in your everyday joy. Thank you for sharing how your journey is unfolding. 🙂

  5. I must say that I wish I had been your student. Your teaching skills are superb. This “list” is a very good outline of readings that I will re-read and follow. The process of evolving to your best self is a complicated one. Having a childhood with loving and supportive parents surely sets the stage for growth and learning.

    Peonies, what a glorious flower. Your mothers are beautiful. I really like how she has bedded them in the stone planter. It separates them and provides such a “stage” for them. I have two plants, they should be transplanted I think, to a safe spot. They are currently at risk of being mowed. Thank you for sharing these photos, as always, learning is the stimulus for change.

    1. Lucy, Your comment is much appreciated and thank you for your kind words. Yes, loving and supportive parents are priceless, and something we are fortunate to receive and have no control over. Thank you for taking a peek at my mother’s garden. She is a talent with a true green thumb. 🙂

    2. Hi Lucy
      I agree that the listings on this post is fabulous. Peonies are stunning and because they flower once they are all the more special. From my experience they don’t really like to be moved. You might be lucky. Best wishes. Kameela?

      1. Our Spring Peonies are stunning this year. We have had a long cool season. In my travels today I have seen the most stunning tree peonies ever! You are probably right about my idea of moving the bushes. Tomorrow I have a date with my favorite nurseryman and I will ask him how feasible it is. I want to make a bed much like Shannon’s mothers with a raised stone setting. I can see my son’s face when I propose this one!

  6. I like the way the links are inserted in this post. Makes for easy referencing. I have to congratulate your Mom on her gardening skills. I too created a garden in pasture land. It took years but with a lot of nurturing it has flourished beyond my imagination. . I think if we nurture ourselves in the same way we will also flourish. Wishing you and Norman a great week. Kameela ?xx

  7. Oh how I needed to read this post this morning! A close relationship had me teetering yesterday. My thoughts turned ugly, my emotions became twisted and my entire outlook for the day was one of negativity. Reading this post today reminded me that, ultimately, we all have a choice in how we respond to life’s lessons and that even when we think we’ve “got it”, (especially then, I think!) life will hand us a situation to make us realize we’ve strayed from our inner peace and contentment. I deeply appreciate all the books you listed below each point as it makes it so much simpler to click on the one we feel is necessary for us to explore. Your mother’s peonies are absolutely divine! The tour of her garden brings such calm. Wishing you and Norman a wonderful week ?

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