I pray quite often about the balance of contentment and ambition in my life; the desire to see certain things to happen, but at the same time being content with what is happening. It is a challenge for me. Dan Rockwell shares some interesting thoughts on how to practice optimistic discontent.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell

Wrong-headed leaders fear happiness. For them discontentment is a virtue.

Dissatisfaction – by itself – creates misery.

“The World is Not Enough,” the James Bond spy thriller, expresses the sentiment of discontent leaders. It doesn’t matter what gets done – it’s never enough.

Don’t expect to enjoy tomorrow if a drop of discontent pollutes a cup of satisfaction.


Discontent is living in an imagined world that never comes into existence.

I ask leaders, “How are things going?” A typical response begins with joy and ends with poison. Things are good – BUT.

I don’t like…

The board expects…

We have this rotten team member…

The poison of better:

If you’re always discontent, you’re a complainer.

Make up your mind. Things are either good or they aren’t. Making things better tomorrow has nothing to do with it.

If ‘better’ poisons today’s achievement, achievement is like the James Bond movie, Never Enough.

How good do things have to be before you stop complaining about the 10%? We all know that If things were 10% better you’d find something else to complain about.

Optimistic discontent:

Only fools attain perfection.

Most people naturally complain about the good things in their lives.

Contentment is about you. Don’t blame discontent on environments, results, or people.

“Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” John Wooden

If you did your best, walk out of work content. Make improvements tomorrow.

  1. Be content with your best effort and optimistic about your future. 
  2. Gratitude requires contentment.
  3. Aspiration requires optimism. 
  4. Never let minor shortfalls poison current achievements.
  5. Ignore “can’t do” people.
  6. Explore aspiration optimistically. Step up. Don’t give up.
  7. Know where you want to go and enjoy making progress.

Contentment isn’t complacency.

How might leaders practice optimistic discontent?