August 6, 2010 – My Definition of Success

When I turned 40 last year, part of me found myself wondering where the time had gone and wishing that I could go back in time and do some things differently, but another part of me actually found myself wondering about the future and wondering what changes I would see in myself as time went by.  There are the obvious physical changes – a little less hair in some places and a little more hair in others, a few more aches and pains, etc., etc., but I have also noticed a change in how I view things and what my real goals in life should be.

When I was in college, as part of the general education requirement I took a couple of philosophy classes.  I admittedly did not take these classes very seriously at the time.  I had the attitude of “I can’t believe all of these people actually get paid for sitting around trying to figure out the meaning of life.  They could be doing something more constructive.”  But as I have gotten older and wiser (debateable) I have found myself reflecting more on life, in particular what is the criteria for deeming one’s life a “success”.

If I would have thought about this 20 years ago, I’m sure my definition of success would have included things like a good job, money, big luxurious house, fancy car, and the best of other material possessions.  But as the years have passed my definition of success had changed.  When I got out of college and was looking for a job, I pretty much stayed around this area to do so.  Could I have moved away from here or could I have gotten more schooling and gotten a higher paying job in my field?  Maybe.  But sub-consciously, something kept me here.  Maybe I didn’t have the courage to pull up and start a new life far away, or maybe fate kept me here, but I think it was an early sign that my priorities were changing.

As the years have passed, I have continued to notice more changes in my definition of success.  Having a lot of money is not as important as it once was.  I don’t have to have the fanciest car in town.  I don’t have to be lavished with material posessions (although I’m the guy that owns 3 computers – you have to splurge on something, right?).  My definition of success now has turned the focus to different priorities – happiness, making a contribution toward making our world a better place, helping those less fortunate, and pleasing the one true God.

All right, now let’s really get deep here – what constitutes true happiness?  There are artificial ways to make us happy, at least temporarily – alcohol, drugs, food, money, posessions, etc.  But what makes us truly happy?  I know the times when I’m truly happy are times when other people are involved.  Some of the most fun times I had were in college.  No, not because I went to SIU Party Central, but because that is where I met some of my most dear friends.  Also it may seem weird, but I find happy times after church meetings – it’s great to share time with people who have as strong or stronger faith than I do, and I find hope in that.

But I think the happiest times are when I have done something that I know has contributed to the common good, or when I have done something that I know pleases God.  When I receive a letter or a photo from the child that I sponsor in Guatemala, it turnes the darkest day bright.  When someone says how much they like our church website or when I get elected President of the Parish Council for the, well, I lost count how many times, it gives me a sense of accomplishment that allows me to tell myself “yeah, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

So what do I feel brings true success?  I take inspiration from this Sunday’s gospel, in which Jesus shares a parable with his apostles that provides the lesson that we should always be prepared for God’s coming, for we do not know the time when it will happen.  Jesus told his disciples “be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”  If we live our lives in such a way that we are confident in being prepared for God’s coming whenever he comes, then we have found true success.  And it doesn’t matter how big our bank account is, or how fancy our car is, or how many computers we have (3 is enough, maybe).

A couple of miscellaneous notes: Had a busy week on the website, with almost 200 pages viewed.  Also had 12 visitors to the blog last Saturday, which was the busiest day for a while.  Thanks again for supporting our website.

Finally, I saw on the news where Kurt Warner, who I mentioned last week, is going to be on Dancing With the Stars.  Didn’t see that one coming.  Somehow I don’t see him doing the mambo or the cha-cha.  Should be interesting to watch.

Another hot week coming!  Stay cool.  Peace.

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