So often, when we hear that someone is very successful, the first thought that comes to mind is that they have done well financially. This says something about our culture: those with a lot of money, regardless of how they acquired it are considered successful, while those with little, regardless of how much talent or integrity they possess, are considered less successful.
Something is wrong with this picture, and it may reflect a kind of immaturity in the Western psyche. Think of a small child who is asked which of two containers holds the most water. Although the amount in both containers is identical, the child will pick the container that is the tallest. Higher must mean more, is how the reasoning goes. As the child matures and learns a little more about volume, his judgements are more sophisticated.
Our culture may be at a more childlike stage, still believing more is better. This creates internal conflict as well as struggle in families, because what satisfies, nurtures and delights us are qualities unrelated to financial status. Feeling loved and loving, supported/supporting, respected/respectful, and united in a common purpose warms the heart and inspires the soul. These bring meaning to our lives. However, because we live in a culture that continues to honor material wealth, the majority of the population is continually trying to balance material success with mental/emotional/spiritual success. Lists are made of the wealthiest people in the world, but I have never heard of a list of the wisest people, the most compassionate people, or the most helpful.
My definition of success would be something like this: to have found out truly who you are, to be living a life in alignment with who you are, to have loving relationships with friends and family, to be doing something to make the world a better place, and to have peace of mind. With this kind of success, there would be no regrets at the end of life. Unfortunately, all too often this aspect of success is pushed into the background to be developed after fulfillment of material desires.
Ironically, if we did it the other way around, fulfilling our authentic selves first, we would see how elusive is the search for happiness when based on the material. Then we would have even more time to savor the deep, meaningful, human success, to which we all have equal access. Our lives would slow down, and instead of striving to get somewhere, we would realize that it is all right here, right now, just waiting to be enjoyed.
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