Successful living

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Successful living, becoming a successful human being, is a matter of pursuing meaning.  It's important that we clarify what we mean by this.  Drawing on yesterday, pursuing meaning is not a matter of chasing "good feels" in life.  It's a matter of crafting a life which supports our intention to live out of our certain way of seeing (our faith, our guiding principles). 

 

If we're not paying attention, we may choose directions in life that make it more difficult to live out of our certain way of seeing than others.  For instance, if you are overworked and under-compensated in a job you hate then you will undoubtedly find it more difficult to reflect God's grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love in your various spheres of influence.  Why?  Because you're living on the edge.  When we live on the edge, we're living without a safety net (in a bad way).  We have no margin for error.  Our filters that may prevent us from going completely off the rails are compromised.  We have no "immune system," so to speak. 

 

And so, as you think about the way in which your life is crafted, one question to consider is:  Are the various elements in my life supporting my way of seeing? 

 

The beauty of approaching "success" this way is that it allows a lot of flexibility in how we apply it to our lives.  The down side is, we have to be intentional...perhaps annoyingly so.

 

More to come tomorrow.

Success and relationality

If we dedicate our entire lives to the pursuit of ambition, apart from other considerations, we will find our existence both spirituality and emotionally empty.  Pursuing ambition is a form of pursuing pleasure, and the pursuit of pleasure alone is the lowest possible benchmark for human life.  Pleasure is good, of course, and we all need some.  If it's all we pursue, though, we'll find nothing but despair.  Use Disorders, in all their forms, are the most extreme symbol or manifestation of a life lived in pursuit of pleasure alone.  Those of us at NSC in recovery recognize what a ruinous existence that can be. 

 

The pursuit of pleasure alone does not create a whole, unified person.  It creates a temperamental toddler in constant need of new toys that provide stimulation.  To become a person we must find ourselves in meaningful relationships.  We must be meaningfully related to God, to ourselves, and to other people.  When we're properly related in these areas we are given the capacity to discover something to pursue in life that stimulates us, provides us joy, meaning, and purpose, while fostering intimacy in our key relationships. 

 

The thing is, that pursuit may not be something that makes us famous.  It may not offer wealth or prestige.  It may not "put us on the map". 

 

Moving towards a new vision for success

From yesterday: How do we find an alternative that does stimulate us while also fostering our growth as people in recovery and people of faith who desire to reflect God's image in our lives?  It starts with the realization that there is no one-size fits-all solution...I'm hoping this string of devotionals will inspire you to formulate your own vision of success based on your priorities.  Click here to get caught up.

 

Part of the reason that there is no one-size fits-all solution for defining success is that we all have different relationships to our friends, families, and communities.  Why am I bringing them into this?  Any reasonably meaningful definition of success will take a person's "hut" into account.  We tend to begin defining success discussing what we want to pursue in order to become successful.  Our desires are part of the equation, but only a part. 

 

What we "want" is not the only factor in formulating a vision for success and meaning in life- we need to find a way to take into account our friends, families, communities, and their needs and desires, in order for the pursuit of success to add meaning to our lives.  In other words, we must be willing to sacrifice in service to those we love.  Sacrifice helps us find success, meaning, and purpose because it connects us to the sensation that we're pursuing a common good, one higher than our own ambition. 

Success, hope, and joy

From yesterday:  What vision of success fosters hope, joy, and meaning, rather than anxiety and competition?  Click here to get caught up.

 

The primary problem we all have with our culture's definition of success (acquiring wealth and prestige), whether we know it or not, is that it is dehumanizing.  It does not foster meaning, provide us with hope, or fill us with joy.  It does not provide us an identity or sense of self that can withstand our failures in life- which we will inevitably have.  At least, it (wealth and prestige) can not provide us these things in the long run.  We may have individual moments of each but, ultimately, we find ourselves living in despair if our aims are as low as wealth and prestige. 

 

How do we find an alternative that does stimulate us while also fostering our growth as people in recovery and people of faith who desire to reflect God's image in our lives? 

 

It starts with the realization that there is no one-size fits-all solution.  People want different things from their lives and people find meaning in different places, even if we share the lenses of faith and recovery in common.  In other words, I'm hoping this string of devotionals will inspire you to formulate your own vision of success based on your priorities.

 

More on this tomorrow. 

Success, desire, and shame

Continuing on from yesterday...click here to get caught up.

 

I would hazard a guess that most of us reading this recognize life is about much more than doing well financially and gaining prestige.  Yet, I would also hazard a guess that each of us lives with some anxiety about how well we do financially in relation to our peers and fear we do not receive the recognition we deserve.  Cognitively, we understand our culture's definition of success does not lead us where we want to go.  It leads only to an endless cycle of competition and anxiety.  No matter how well you do, there is always someone out there who is better at your "thing," who has more wealth, who has more prestige.  We recognize, intellectually, that the only ends of this pursuit are disappointment, shame, regret, and such things.

 

Emotionally, I'm not so sure.  The "heart space" does not easily conform to what we "know" because our deepest desires, too heavily ingrained to be swayed by thoughts alone, push us towards wealth and prestige in spite of our mental reminders to choose a more nuanced or noble goal.  When we live in tension between what we "know" and what we "desire" then we're stuck with the resulting shame of believing we aren't living how we should be. 

 

And so, we have lingering questions. 

 

What vision of success fosters hope, joy, and meaning, rather than anxiety and competition?

 

How might we internalize such a vision so we do not live in a perpetual state of shame over the fact that we do not desire what we should desire?