So it’s the beginning of the year and most people are reevaluating their lives and changing things and trying new things or finally getting to do old things. And I am so sure that majority are using someone else’s life as a reference point: Nancy lost 30 pounds last year so I should at least lose that much if not more, Mark Zuckerberg was a millionaire at 24 so I should be working towards being halfway there, Kylie Jenner is a CEO and she isn’t even 21 so I should push myself harder, John just graduated with First class honors and he was in the class behind me in high school, our neighbors just bought a new house and own some land and they are a younger family than us. Whether we think we are using their lives as positive reinforcements or we are just comparing ourselves in a negative light to them, we tend to make our resolutions or changes to fit someone else’s life so as to get closer to achieving goals that they already have.
That’s why self-help books and leadership books sell so well; someone tells you that they got their company into the Forbes list and you suddenly want to do everything that they are doing from when they wake up to their sleeping time. Same as trying celebrity diets and workout plans. We love taking other people’s success and trying to recreate it into out own lives. Now there is nothing wrong with aspiring to be like someone, Paul said we follow him while he follows Christ and we are called to be Christ-like but aspiring to be like someone and defining ourselves by them are two very different things. You see, wanting someone’s better qualities and trying to emulate them is great and is a way to better yourself but wanting someone’s blessing or using their blessings to define our lives is just wrong.
We’ve grown up with a specific image of what success is and that is why we have successful people that are always used as an example and why we have celebrities or popular figures. We were told that we had to have all As and get into great universities and do a top-tier degree and start a big business and look a certain way, dress a certain way and buy certain houses and clothes and cars and live only in certain areas and have certain talents. That is what we spend our lives chasing; the dream life. We live aspiring to get to that level and then we assume we’ll be happy. But why do the rich keep trying to get richer and the Oscar-winning actors still act in new movies and the world’s most beautiful people still strive for more beauty? It is because there is no satisfaction in following and reaching a success story that is not your success and most importantly good success.
Paul wrote that he had fought the fight, ran the race and won the prize; he was satisfied with his life’s work and he wasn’t even about to die. King Solomon also said in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing better than people being happy and doing good while they live and being satisfied in their work, eat and drink. He also said that he considered all he had to be vanity even though he was the wisest and richest man to have ever and will ever live. What we get from these two and so many more people then and now is that success is about doing what you were meant to do.
In all the different stages of life we keep looking to those we think or are told are successful to guide us, dictate our moves and define our lives. We measure our wealth, worth,intelligence, health and strength using them as the highest level. We even make others who are content with their lives discontent because we force them to see things our way. We tell the lady who is content teaching 3-5 year olds in Montessori that she should start a tuition center, aspire to be principal or even change careers, and we tell that boy who wants to be a carpenter that that is a low-level job and maybe he should stick to it as a hobby and work at getting a ‘real’ job. We have taken a few people’s lives and used them to define those of 7 billion others. Suddenly, wanting to be a stay-at-home mom is wasting potential and being a plumber is for those who failed school and artists have to be bad at math and programmers have to love science and comics.
But this is what makes the world unhappy. This is what makes life seem like an endless cycle of an uphill climb and buying stuff. And this is why people hate their jobs and are in debt and homes are breaking up. We have to start redefining what success is and then we will see a change in the quality of life, happiness, family and even our goals and aspirations. We have to use biblical principles to define our success and not worldly standards.
The first and most important thing is what Joshua was told in Joshua 1:8;that if he kept the commandments of God, he would achieve good success. So we first have to be in the word of God and doing the word and obeying it for us to even be considered successful in God’s eyes. After that, you need to know your gifts and talents and work on them and use them and discover your purpose. Our purpose on this earth is not to have a waist like Beyonce or bank account like Richard Branson or leadership skills like Obama. Each of us have a unique calling and purpose that is directly tied to our gifts and talents and will make us fulfilled and most importantly gives us our own space in the world.
Our success continues when we learn to take risks, opportunities and chances in the areas we have been gifted in and are interested in by understanding the times and stepping out in faith instead of sitting and blaming others( like the man at the pool of Bethseda) or questioning God and His commands (like Moses). It grows as you gain satisfaction in your work because you are within God’s will and calling for your life.
You see, success is not about money or recognition or good grades or a top five course or a marriage that is admired or a ‘perfect body’. It is about what you are doing with what God has given you( your talents, gifts, chances and opportunities), how you are building and nurturing your relationships and whether or not you are doing the right thing for you at this time. When you redefine success in God’s view, you suddenly have less worries, more peace, more happiness and less stress. You realize that there is no right or wrong way to study or work or do things, you learn to be all around healthy and most importantly you start to achieve your success. You suddenly are not stressed about finishing college after 24 or getting married after 30 or having kids in your 40’s or starting your business in your 60’s or never being CEO or never owning a house. You also do not stress those who never go to college or finish a degree at 19 or get married at 21 and have all their kids before they hit 30 or start their business at 10 or are born owning a house.
When you redefine success, you can be content in life because you realize we are not racing against each other because we are not on the same path. We all have our own journey because we all have different purposes and as a christian, you find rest and peace in knowing that God is working everything for your good and you are not alone and he is not judging you based on the achievements of others. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to be better or do better, in fact that is the basis of our christian walk, but you should be doing it for the genuine joy at being better and from a place of contentment. Remember that this world is not our home so we should make the most of our time here, not by striving to be like someone else but by being the best version of who God created and called us to be.
So today while you strive and work towards success, ask yourself if you are doing what God called you to do? If your motivation to get that car, that body, that job, that degree or that house is the right one. Ask yourself if you are using your gifts and talents or you have buried them to pursue worldly success. Ask God to search your heart and point out the things you think you are doing for the right reasons but are really doing them out of vanity, discontentment, jealousy or the need to prove someone wrong. After all that, remind yourself that you are exactly where you need to be in this time of your life and you are doing great. Speak words of life to yourself and reinforce your faith with God’s word. You’re a success, learn to trust the journey God is taking you on.
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