There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I thought the meaning of a successful life was about how many things I could acquire based on the size of my paycheck and the title on my business card.
I worked 60 hours a week, traveled to far off places and had important meetings with important people. I made bonuses and received a lot of appreciation from associates and peers. I was definitely on the fast track.
After a time, I thought I was the track.
I didn’t neglect my family, but I did believe that my time with them could easily be replaced by providing them with the ease and comfort that comes with material prosperity. It all seemed to make sense.
But here’s the thing, I never felt fulfilled. It was as if there was always a hole I needed to fill and I slowly started to discover that I wasn’t able to fill it with things.
I wanted fulfillment but when it came right down to it, I realized that I never really gave that much of myself to others.
For me, life was one big transaction so when I did give, I gave with the intent to get something in return. Time for money and money for time. After a while, it became so depressingly discouraging.
Then I received a blessing from an unexpected event. My wife decided to start her own business and in the process of us discussing what she wanted out of life and work, I had an opportunity to take a step back and take the time to define and ‘find myself” as well.
What I discovered through this process is that surprisingly I didn’t want all the material things after all.
Don’t get wrong, I like nice shiny things just as much as the next person (maybe more) and, in my book, there’s nothing wrong with material things or the pursuit of them, but in my case, they just weren’t giving me what I needed.
I wanted to feel free and at peace with myself and others. I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment that comes with the feeling of “enough.” To my surprise, I discovered I couldn’t buy that!
Then I remembered something I read years ago. “Anything that you want out of life, you have to be willing to give it first.” If I want success, I have to be willing to help others be successful, if I want understanding I have to be willing to understand others.
If I want happiness I need to be willing to help bring happiness into the lives of others. These aren’t one on one transactions with individual people but rather, transactions with the world and all of the people in it.
I decided to stop chasing the money and “things” that come with it and start chasing more interactions with other people. I volunteered more, I donated more time and money to people in need.
I started loving on my family like nobody’s business and I started making choices based on what I was bringing to the table vs. what I was getting from the table.
Things slowly started to change. I found that I could actually make less but earn more.
Today, the reality is that I actually work less and impact people’s lives more. The people in my life are friends and not competition. I’m less concerned about what other people think of me and more concerned about what I think of other people.
I’ve learned that the way it feels when I try to love everyone in my life is the way I thought it would feel if everyone else loved me.
The best part is that I haven’t had to give up anything, materially speaking. I just gave up the pursuit of the material as a source for fulfillment. Nothing has been taken off my plate but so much more has been added to my life.
Please understand, every day isn’t all puppy dogs and milkshakes. My life is still filled with many challenges, obstacles and sometimes difficulties. I’m not always on top of the world, but one thing’s for sure, the world is no longer on top of me.