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I'm looking for a word to describe an emotion in fictional lawyer Horace Rumpole. Several characters try to goad him into finding a better-paying, more prestigious job in law. He entertains the idea momentarily but looks at his life, ideals, and principles and then decides he's better off where he is.

What I understand Aristotle's eudaimonia to mean -- happiness derived by living according to virtue -- is close. But it does not always imply that there was cost (or loss of gain) in living so.

For generality, I would rather the word not have the religious connotations of righteousness or martyrdom. Ideally it could be used to describe a "He didn't take the money" situation that I see in some films: The hero agrees to do a job for money, but later (usually privately) refuses the agreed pay because of his principles. The hero (maybe reluctantly) understands that ultimately this is the way he wants it to be.

Is there a single word to describe "contentment in a choice that costs you"?

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e·qua·nim·i·ty /ˌēkwəˈnimitē/ Noun Mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, esp. in a difficult situation. (Google) –  MετάEd May 9 '13 at 23:26
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@MετάEd: That is a very good word to describe Rumpole. However, it does not describe the attitude I'm looking for. My question is a little misleading; I will try to think of how to improve it. A criminal can know what he did was wrong and still have equanimity in trial. What I'm looking for is one's contentment in the virtue (the rightness) of an option in a difficult choice AND is cognizant that he will "miss out" because of the final decision. –  dingo_dan May 9 '13 at 23:58

2 Answers 2

Such a person might be described as satisfied.

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I've often heard the term satisfice(d) used. It's a blend, common in some technical circles, like management and political science, of the verbs satisfy and suffice, both of which are regular and give rise to participal adjectives in -ed. Suffice it to say that they appear to be satisfied with the term. –  John Lawler Jun 8 '13 at 23:33

Complacent suggests contentment with a lack of concern for consequences. It's especially appropriate to indicate smugness. Ambitionless is more neutral but may still carry some negative connotations among people who see ambition as a virtue – possibly a good fit for the fictional lawyer.

For cases like the hero, where the contentment is altruistic in nature, selfless is more appropriate.

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If I were to say "a complacent young man" I might think of an apathetic youth; if "an ambitionless young man," an aimless adolescent. I want nobler implications than those. But selfless and altruistic, I like where those are headed. I want a word that says "I could have been something more, but I don't regret choosing otherwise, because instead I did something of greater worth." Like a contented resignation or deference to a higher calling. –  dingo_dan May 10 '13 at 5:15

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