Success is something I’ve thought a lot about, and something we all want. But I think we haven’t really broken down the parts of what it means to be successful in life. Because really, success means happiness, and we’re not always sure what’s going to make us happy unless we do a bit of soul-searching.
The Latin root of success is successus, which means “advance, coming up, a good result.” We all want a good result for our efforts, but we’re not always sure how to get there, because what we consider the “finish line” is awry. (Is it a certain amount of money? Is it a house or a certain kind of car? Is it marriage, a beach house, a particular title in our career?) We have to consider what success means in different areas of our life, what our end-goals are, and why we have those end-goals. Are our goals based on resistance in some way to what we don’t want? Are our goals based on what someone (or others) with influence has told us should be our goals? Are we just doing what the wider, often sick, culture has told us to do without knowing what we really want, what makes us happy opposed to what works for someone else?
My desire in life is to be happy, and to help others. It is to grow deeper and wiser and share that wisdom with those who seek it. It is not tied to a particular abode, a particular car, a particular partner or a particular bottom-line in my bank account. And yet all those things matter, too, because I have to engage with the realities of life. I have to make decisions about where to live and what to drive and where to travel, who to spend time with, how to raise my kids. And even with raising my kids, there are so many unknowns. When they are older, I want them to be happy, too, but that isn’t always tied to a high-paying job or a certain kind of relationship. Mostly I want them to be kind and generous and know how to take care of themselves in all kinds of ways. I want them to have faith and gratitude. I want them to have good, solid character, and ask for help when necessary. I want them to be able to discern truth from a lot of muddy waters. In essence, I want them to feel free to be fully themselves in every way possible. That’s what it means to be whole.
We need more whole people in this world.
In the dating arena the past few years, because I come in contact with people I wouldn’t meet otherwise, I have been able to glean that a relationship doesn’t often work when two people have different versions of success. A lot of the men I’ve come in contact with (because I’m only dating men, currently), think that to impress a woman, they need to have a high-paying job. They think spending a lot of money on a woman is showing love. (And maybe it is, for some women, but what kind of woman is that?) Often, the men I meet haven’t learned from past relationships what went wrong, what they can do better next time. They don’t know how to talk to a woman, and instead of learning how, they just move forward blindly, repeating all the same mistakes again.
I, personally, don’t want anyone who goes through life making the same mistakes. I am only interested in someone who invests in his long-term growth, so that he becomes wiser and more knowledgeable about himself, what his needs are, what sparks his interest and turns him on long-term. Only then will he know what he has to offer a woman, and he has to be able to communicate that effectively.
The unfortunate thing is, no one is teaching men what turns women on, and I fear men don’t know how to listen, either. I’m not saying that men are inferior to women, or that they’re more in the dark. I know lots of great men who have made their relationships work. (Although I’m not a marriage counselor, so who knows what people are settling for behind closed doors.) I think that generally, we are in an age where women are the ones seeking more depth, more intensity, more uncovering and understanding. Women are stepping in all kinds of waters, attending workshops and events and learning more and more about ourselves and our bodies and what it means to be connected. We want the kind of sustainability in sex and love that can last, because we haven’t been treated very well for the last couple hundred centuries.
Feminism is not a problem—it’s just a stage. It has been a stage that helped women advance politically, so that we could start walking into those boardrooms confidently, so that everyone could see women’s faces in government and politics. So while feminism is good (and I am, by definition of the word, a feminist), it is not all. It has not taken us to this next step, which is a spiritual kind of unity, and that spiritual unity happens beyond the voting registration booth. This spiritual unity of the sexes starts in churches and works its way outward. Because the way a person feels about God speaks to the deepest, purest, most impressionable place in all of us. And this impacts our interactions, our relationships, our decisions every day. If we can find a spiritual unity between the sexes in that vulnerable place, we’re in good shape for the rest.
And when I talk about spiritual union, I do not mean we all have to think the same things and live the same ways. I’m talking about a unique, Self-driven path of practice and daily meditation, that helps us uncover who we really are and what we really want. But the core of all that is what we believe to be true about the divine and the universal. The core is whether we believe everyone, and everything, comes from the same essence, and deserves the same level of respect.
If we have faith, and we really believe Love is the essence of all things, then we would have no problem letting people be completely themselves.
The important step on the spiritual path, and for any sort of long-term, meaningful success in life, is uncovering who you really are. It is in recognizing you have freedom to make choices, and you try things out to see which choices feel right for you, which lighten your spirit.
When you search for who you are at your core, you might be surprised at what you find. Or you might not. But it’s a good practice to do some searching to make sure that how you act, what you’ve always wanted, the trajectories you’ve set for yourself are really yours, and not somebody else’s imposition.
The wisest people in this world did not become wise because they listened to all the rules, or trusted everyone else to make decisions for them. (Jesus turned tables in the marketplace for good reason.) The wisest people have plunged and explored their depths and surfaced again to offer the world the gold they have found. The wisest people do not blindly follow.