We can learn to take advantage of what makes us happy to achieve a fulfilled life. Does that sound appealing, a fulfilled life?
Great, then let’s get started.
But first, we need to go back to our definition of success.
If you were to ask a ton of people, “What is success?” You would quickly realise that the answer to that question depends on who you ask.
I would be willing to bet that there are as many different definitions as there are people to question.
And with the multitude of differing opinions, the entire issue of success becomes confusing.
Besides, when there are so many options, then it becomes difficult for anyone to decide for themselves what success means.
Frequently, people let society tell them what success is.
And that might work for some. But others want to make that decision on their own.
The challenge with letting someone else decide on ‘your‘ definition of success is that you significantly decrease the chances that you will end up with a definition of success that works for you.
I don’t know many people that would go out to eat and let a stranger order for them in a restaurant.
The odds dictate that you will end up eating what they like. And in all likelihood, you won’t end up with a meal that suits your tastes.
I know that was an extreme example, but it is because of this that understanding the exact nature of success becomes critical for happiness and fulfilment.
Eat The Dinner You Choose
If you never develop the ability and skill to make your own decision, then you run the risk of ending up eating someone else’s dinner.
And doing it repeatedly.
If we are to eat the dinner, we need to see the items available on the menu. Then we can choose what best suits us.
When you read to the end, you will know the main choices that are on the menu of success.
And another advantage is that most, if not all, of these menu items, can be ordered a’ la carte.
What that means is you can select only the items that you want.
The advantage is that the definition of success that you choose can be as individualistic as you are.
Let’s start by casting our eyes over the main categories on this menu. Then we can get a good idea of how to successfully tailor our own order for success.
Many people have a definition of success centred on objects.
Applying this definition, to be a successful person you must have a number of material possessions.
All of these will demonstrate to the world the measure of that person’s success. And it has to be on show!
Every one of us knows the types of objects at issue here.
If we are honest with one another, then all of us, to one extent or another, feel the influence of this definition of success.
What we are talking about are fashionable clothes, expensive electronic devices, large houses, and multiple vehicles.
Because of their collective price tag, these material trappings tell the whole wide world that their owner his rich enough to be able to purchase them.
These material trappings may provide comfort to the owner, but they also show the world know his or her social status.
And that is just as important as the comfort they provide.
We call this definition “material success.”
Don’t let me confuse the matter, I see nothing wrong with seeking and gaining material success.
It is a blessing to live in a wonderful world that is chock full of some very amazing items.
For example, I am lost without my phone.
And I will confess to feeling more confident when I have a nice watch on my wrist.
I am hopeful that each of us will be blessed to be able to have the chance to sample some of these material treats.
We have talked about money as a measure of success, but it is also a measure of security.
My Mum told me many times, “Money is the root of all evil.” Thanks Mum, but aside form that, it can provide for the necessities of life.
Not just for you but also for those you love and who depend upon you.
Potent Motivating Force
So it is easy to see why material success becomes an obvious choice for many.
The pull of all that luxury, as well as the financial security, is a potent motivating force to work hard and progress.
And this pull can become so strong that it blinds people those to other options that might be available.
The challenge is that these additional options are necessary for your complete success.
Without these other options, material success can become a hollow and empty trap that, ironically, in time does not feel the least bit successful or gratifying.
A second category on the menu of success is spiritual. It is easy to think of spiritual success as the exact opposite of material success.
With material success, we rely on external and material objects. With spiritual success, we concentrate on internal development.
This in turn often leads to rejecting the majority of material possessions.
Most people would commonly define spiritual success as a “religious” pursuit.
And yes, spirituality is closely defined with organised religions, religious behaviour does not entirely define the entire category of human spirituality.
It is logical and probable that our first definition of success was materialistic. After all, we developed in a harsh and competitive world.
Think back to when our distant ancestors eked out their existence.
In this world, resources were limited because so many others species were competing for the same resources.
At first inspection, this might seem cruel. Looking more deeply, we can see it was nature’s way of providing a check and balance system.
Designed to guard against the uncontrolled growth of one species at the expense of the others.
Nature did not have an individuals survival as its goal. For nature, variety was the goal.
In this hyper-competitive world, the individuals who can most successfully stockpile a surplus of resources survived.
Human beings, as rational hunter-gatherers, became adept at not only identifying potential food sources but efficiently exploiting those resources.
We moved beyond mere hunting and gathering into pastoralism and agriculture when we developed this ability to find, exploit and preserve.
We moved eventually into higher social technologies. And with this transition, we became even better competitors in the process.
Nature’s Definition Of Success
As this happened, we brought nature’s definition of success with us.
The economies we created began to reflect the fact that the preferred goal was abundance.
Hence logically, individual success was predicated upon how much resources that individual possessed.
And so, the concept of material success was created.
In this world, a wealthy individual was not only physically better prepared to survive, but they were also perceived by others as being more worthy of survival than someone who was less fortunate.
We then began to interpret material possessions or the lack thereof as indicators of moral standing.
Scarcity existed in the natural world just as it existed in the economic systems we created. And this was the problem.
In the natural world, no moral judgment is made against an individual who has less. However, the penalty for having less in the wilds of the natural world was not surviving.
And we carried a similar theme in human communities. The penalty for having less was social segregation.
If you had less, you would be segregated into a social class (the have-nots) that was deemed lower and less desirable than those who had more (the haves).
Very quickly people realised that this moral judgement had profound effects outside of mere individual survival.
So they focused intently on material possessions and money as the way to happiness and fulfilment.
And so began the rush for individual material survival.
As a consequence of individual material survival, some human values fell by the wayside.
The human values that defined survival in the wild were ignored or became less critical.
And these are positive traits such as cooperation, gratefulness, sharing, and social responsibility.
These became liabilities in the new world brought about by modern human economics. The new world of individual competition.
Human religions reacted to this new world. They focused on what became known as spiritual values to the same degree as economics focused on material values.
In many religions, possessions and material goods became a negative attribute and even a taboo.
Material goods and possessions were seen as a symbol of how spiritually undeveloped an individual was.
And the only way an individual could obtain spiritual success was to reject material culture completely.
As humans we derive protection and natural comfort from possessions. So this benefit was lost.
And the human inclination to gather possessions and material good was ignored.
The coldness and austerity of spiritual success became the equivalent of the arrogance and pomposity of material success.
With no common ground between the two approaches, if a person was looking to achieve success they had to adopt an either/or approach.
Your choice was to choose material success, and with that reject any element of spirituality in the process.
Or spiritual success and with that choice reject the protection and comfort that material possessions bring.
It is obvious that this is not a workable solution. And it is still a situation that persists to the present day.
Even today, people continue to be confused in choosing between material and spiritual success.
And the divide that causes this confusion continues is perpetuated by modern consumer economics and modern religion.
And the sad consequence is that many of us fail at achieving true success because we are forced to adopt a definition of success that is not to our tastes.
We let someone else peruse the menu and order success for us.
Before you despair, there is a solution to this dilemma.
Very rarely are important issues entirely black and white. And as important to individual fulfilment as success is, it too is not entirely black and white.
The difficult choice between material success and spiritual success is largely a result of circumstances and tradition.
And this choice is a false one.
A third choice exists. And this choice is actually no choice at all. The third option is “liberated success”.
As the name implies, liberated success serves to free the individual from the tyranny of choice between material and spiritual success.
The advantage to liberated success is the empowerment or even re-empowerment of the person with the capability to choose the elements of success that make the most sense to them.
This means they pick and choose from the expansive menu of both material and spiritual success to form their own individual hybrid definition of success that can provide them with true happiness.
Being truly yourself in regards to your definition of success is a liberty.
And this provides the advantage that you do not need to be trapped in a lifestyle that promises to be fulfilling yet only delivers misery and unhappiness.
This liberty also means that the person who is happy is more likely to share that happiness with others.
When you take advantage of how you define success and apply a combination of the best elements of material and spiritual success, then you are able to bring about the best of all possible worlds for yourself and everyone involved.
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