More Than a Feeling: The Benefits of Discontent

Discontent starts with a feeling and can end one of two ways.  If acted upon, our discontent can lead us toward a life with greater meaning, purpose, and impact.  If not, it can be the beginning of looking back on our lives with regret.

I learned that something could be “more than a feeling” with a boombox and a well-worn cassette back in junior high thanks to Tom Scholz and the band Boston.

I learned that discontent was more than a feeling from 2009 to 2016.


Contentment is the state of equilibrium we seek – both consciously and unconsciously.

Being content, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.”

This does not mean that we’ve “made it” – just that we are on the right track.

We can feel content whether we are living a life of purpose, exploring our interests, pursuing our passions, or just doing the hard work we need to do to meet our every-day obligations and near-term goals.

Most of us have goals and milestones we are driven to achieve.  Our desire and drive to achieve these is a good thing. The key to feeling content during the pursuit, however, is having these aligned with our longer-term goals.

“Contentment gives us comfort we are on the right track, even during our hard times. Our discontent is a well-informed coach trying to get us back on track, even when times would otherwise appear good.”

-Peter C. Atherton


Our discontent is both a feeling that something is just not quite right, as well as, a quiet, consistent, and powerful force for change.

Discontent is an internal compass and barometer for our lives – but ones that can never be replaced with technology such as mobile GPS and the Weather Channel app.

Our lives are unique and so is our “magnetic north”.  Living the life we are meant to cannot be programed or directed by others.

The presence of discontent tells us we are not aligned with our “north”.  The degree of our discontent is a measure of pressure that helps initiate change.

I used some version of the word discontent 11 times in my book, Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners as I shared how I worked through a major career and life transformation:


I knew my engineering work was good, even honorable, but I was discontented.


On the other hand, reaching the fork in the road where we need to decide whether to stay the course, refresh in place, or pivot away can also be more of a gradual process – a season of discontent that eventually wears on us to the point of action.


Through our experience and the work of others, the lack of one or more of these four key relationships needed for a full life is what leads to discontentment.


When in the “momentum trap”, we often feel an obligation to the past and feel obligated to maintain aspects of our present for our spouse, family, partners, and peers despite our discontentment and lack of interest or passion in our work.


In all, it took seven years from my time of sensing discontent for the first time in 2009 to my exit becoming reality in 2016.


In addition, not living in the flow or pursuit of our life purpose will be a source of our discontent.


It is a step in faith to begin to “master our time” because we may feel lost, disconnected, discontented, frustrated, and even resentful – especially if we are in or headed toward the burnout-disengagement cycle.


As we progress in life, the gap between what we are doing and who we are and our life purpose is what drives our discontent.


Deciding to take control is a decision to value ourselves above our present discontent.


Once we make the decision to resolve our discontent, we begin to value time itself with a greater sense of urgency.


Growing discontent and pivoting trends demonstrate that top talent is taking their own initiative to design their lives and to position themselves to win.

We should never underestimate the power and the benefit of feeling that something is not quite right.  If realized, understood, and acted upon, our discontent is a gift to help redirect our lives.

We do not need to live a life without direction, meaning, purpose, and impact.

The fact that so many of us realize that we are too busy, disengaged, or burning-out is the first step.  Now, we just need to take the time to better understand what our discontent is trying to tell us… and then take action toward change.

Don’t let something as important as your life just “slip away”.  YouTube More Than a Feeling here to get pumped up for change.

Our discontent is certainly more than a feeling… and it can move us to “see beyond the road I’m drivin’” to ensure we Don’t Look Back with regret.

Thank you, discontent and MIT graduate, writer, producer, and Boston band leader, Tom Scholz!

To your winning,

PS – Ready to increase your engagement and your impact?  Check out our Fast Start Programs.

PSS – Click HERE… and then just sit back and listen to one of the most important chapters in “Reversing Burnout” for FREE.  Learn more about the realities of work and life today and how you can reverse and avoid the “Burnout-Disengagement Cycle”.

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Pete Atherton

About the Author

Pete is the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, and creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process.  ActionsProve works with professionals and business owners to create greater growth and profits through more effective employee attraction and retention, impact, and branding.  Prior to founding ActionsProve, and for more than 20 years, Pete was a very successful and accomplished professional engineer.  Pete sold his engineering firm ownership to focus on designing systems for you and your organization to grow and succeed in more relevant and effective ways.  For over a dozen years, Pete has also been serving in multiple capacities in the non-profit sector to achieve both local and global impact, and is a co-founder of the 100 Men Who Care chapter for Knoxville and the 100 Men Who Care chapter for Southern Maine.

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More Than a Feeling: The Benefits of Discontent