The large majority of successful ideas, businesses, and movements that last for more than a short season come as a result of a resilient, often slow, and methodical approach to achievement. Alternatively, we are constantly bombarded with a culturally pernicious perspective that the more common result is driven by pure luck, the overnight sensation or success that comes easily to people born with talent. Is this not similar to how we picture the valleys and mountaintops in our own personal experiences as well? The mountaintop experience is something we all long for. The allegorical symbolism comes from the breathtaking view of the mountaintop where we observe the expanse of the sky and behold endless beauty and wonder. As the mountaintop experience is a great showcase of God’s wonder and glory, we prefer to look at success also as a momentary beholding in the same way we experience the mountaintop and all of its pleasure and enjoyment. If we approach others we admire for a certain accomplishment or status and believe that success is primarily instant and not a result of significant effort, that greatly misguides our own lives and how we think about our goals. We have addressed the importance of establishing spiritual side of thinking long term in that we don’t always know where we will end up when we pursue doing our best work. We can only step forward in the direction that currently peaks our interest, practicing, navigating and making connections with both people and things, and over time, will we see where a specific goal might lead us. During this winding road of pursuit, we need visual imagery, a picture, that we remember when bombarded with mindsets that drag us down or have us trying to hurry the process to the finish line and instead just burn us out. A picture of what long-term success might look like could help us keep perspective and encourage us in pursuing our personal dreams and passions.
When thinking about success, it is first important to consider our primary motivating factor in finding a meaningful career and direction in life. Most people point to happiness as the core pursuit, essentially asking the question, “What will make me happy?” But, as so many strong thinkers, creators, and world-changers have pointed out and exemplified, happiness is not the main pursuit. Events and purpose in life are driven by a deeper theme. When we start with the question, “What do I want to do?” or “What would make me happy?” we are starting with the wrong perspective. All great careers and lives start from a place of finding a problem that needs to be solved. What makes us come alive in service to other people? This is the better question to ask. Engagement, fulfillment, and joy are discovered only after we start with a mindset of contribution and value to others. When we start here, then we can begin to look at our bent, what is important to us, and what makes us unique. The two questions we should be asking are: “Who are we?” and “How can we contribute or serve others?”
Success Inside the Family
It is interesting, when considering success inside of the family dynamic, studies have shown that parents with four children are happier and more fulfilled. Is it possible that adults with big families live happier, more enriched lives? Does this sounds impossible or even proposterous? If so, you might be observing the world with a mindset of personal happiness instead one of service. It certainly goes counter to my own instincts in a culture that says having more than two children is hard to manage and is bad for the children’s self-esteem because there is less focus on their particular needs. I think the root of it is much deeper, as it messes up our plans and our control over our future. The other concerns are situational and a result of worrying about the future. If you want something in your life you prepare and plan and expect it to happen. More siblings could encourage sharing and considering the feelings and needs of others instead of being self-focused. As our consumerist society and the wealthiest culture to ever live, we are more prosperous than any other people group and yet we cannot imagine four children and them growing up to be well adjusted. Meanwhile, other cultures have five to ten children, live on much less, and believe it is a legacy to have as many children as possible.
A Vision For Our Goals and Habits
In thinking about career growth and long term success, I cannot consider a better way to think about success than, as a father, considering the daily and hourly work of being present with your family. If you are wondering why I am focusing on family when talking about pursuing goals and daily habits, it is the perfect place to start. When we have a perspective of serving others above all else, and seek a career of fulfillment, we must start with those closest to us. The fact that people run after a successful career with less regard for their family is not healthy and leaves us ultimately un-happy while neglecting those who need us. So shouldn’t we start here and let our family help us with a right perspective? This will certainly spill over into all areas of our life.
This wonderful picture of success and a long-term mentality that I want to remember as a sign of an enriched life is the family gathering for the Thanksgiving feast. In this vivid imagery the patriarch grandparents are at the head of the table surrounded by their children, children’s spouses, and a slew of grandchildren. There is a sort of unspoken appreciation for the moment, knowing that it is fragile, that it should not go unappreciated, the good health and fortune of many small moments adding up to the joys of a legacy following after God and in the self-sacrifice of those closest to you. How delicate, often rare, and precious these moments are, when everyone as an extended family gathers together to give thanks and count their blessings. Indeed, these moments typically include an annual family photo and are never captured perfectly, and its as it should be. At the same time, it means the world to the patriarchs who have led the way. There is a realization that these moments will not last forever and that they should be fully experienced in a spirit of humility and thankfulness right now. These moments are certainly not to be lived for, but they are moments in which proves there has been life well lived. There have been many moments, if not the large majority, that have been lived intentionally and understanding that life is not about an ultimate happiness but about living in service to others. This is not to suggest life has been lived out perfectly, but admonishes the grace to persevere. These are the moments to pause and remember and provide encouragement to continue pursuing future faithfulness.
If we could simply step into that daily purpose and picture the Thanksgiving table with our future children and grandchildren, to fully dwell on the grand-ness of that moment, I believe we will truly consider loving and living well. If you don’t have a spouse and children, then you have a much wider net to cast for those that you can serve. Consider those closest to you first and foremost and pursue work that matters. For all of my striving to make it to the next step in my career, if I could just step back and believe in self-sacrifice as the ultimate enrichment and satisfaction in life, the more I would learn about myself and step into who I am and what God has for me. As a result, the less time I would waste and the more I would even prioritize and focus on my dreams. The struggles and frustrations of the moment will work themselves out as I learn more about myself and simply persist in the midst of them. The daily habits and daily commitments influence the long-term fulfillment in both my personal and professional life.