How do you define success? Simply defined success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Other definitions say success is the attainment of popularity or profit. Yet another definition says success is a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity. Author Henry Nouwen writes; “A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame”. However, Nouwen then points out there is a difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. “Fruits”, writes Nouwen, “come from weakness and vulnerability. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds”. He concludes saying “let’s remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness, but fruitfulness”.
When I graduated from Seminary my adviser gave me a book entitled “Called to be Faithful, Not Successful”. It serves as a great reminder as to what’s important. In a performance driven world, it’s all too easy to get caught in the success trap. David declares in Psalm 46 “Be still and know that I am God”. Another translation of the verse says “cease your striving”. Striving leads to turmoil and a loss of peace. So if you’re feeling stressed as a result of the success trap, maybe it’s time to “cease your striving”. Trying to be engaged 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a path to burn out. It’s an indication of striving. A recent study actually determined it is better for people to turn their email off on phones and other devices. Striving to be available at any hour of the day actually causes a reduction in productivity.
I’m doing something this year I’ve not done in a while. I’m reading the Bible through in a year. There are many reading plans but I use a very simple one. I started in Genesis and am reading approximately 4 to 5 chapters a day. With this plan, by the end of the year, I will have read the Bible through from cover to cover. Last week after reading Genesis 17 I made the following journal entry;
I sense the Lord saying a lot about “faithfulness”. First in the Henry Nouwen reading for today which then reminded me of the book “Called to be Faithful Not Successful”. Then in Genesis 17:1-2 I read where God instructs Abram – who was later named Abraham – to live a “faithful and blameless life before Him and then God makes a “covenant” with Abram which includes an inheritance of not only family, but also prosperity.
As we enter 2016 maybe it’s time for a new definition of success;
S = Service. There’s no such thing as success without service. The secret of success lies in meeting the needs of others. That’s where we discover fulfillment.
U = Understanding contentment. Let’s not measure success by how much we own or how much money we have but by a sense of inner contentment. Real success is always internal, never external.
C = Character. Character is of greater value than how much money or status we have. The best test of character is revealed in how we treat others.
C = Compassion. What really matters is not money, power and ego, but issues of the heart – such as compassion, kindness, bravery, generosity and love.
E = Excellence. Excellence is not being the best, but being your best.
S = Significance. The popular notion of success has not cut it. A growing number of people yearn for significance more than success. Significance comes by giving ourselves to something that is greater than us and that will outlast us.
S = Sacrifice. A problem in our society is that we are spending our entire lives looking for something worth living for. It would be better if we found something worth sacrificing for.
How will you measure success in 2016?
Looking Out My Window is a regular column in the Northumberland Today newspaper located in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.