What is your idea of true success? Whether we like it or not, we all strive for something. While some are motivated by love, others work toward money or fame.
What dominates the focus of your life? We all want to be successful. I believe this is a normal and natural human inclination. I want to challenge and stimulate your thoughts concerning true success.
I am moved by Ralph Waldo Emerson's reflections on success.
How do you measure success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child,
a redeemed social condition,
or a job well done;
To know even one other life has breathed
because you lived -
this is to have succeeded.
These words impress me. I appreciate what isn't mentioned as much as what is. Emerson doesn't once refer to money, status, rank or even fame. He doesn't say anything about power over others either; or possessions; or a super-intimidating self-image; or emphasis on size, numbers, statistics and other visible nonessentials in light of eternity.
I encourage you to read the words again. Maybe you missed something the first time around. Pay closer attention to the verbs this time: "to laugh," "to win," "to earn," "endure," "to appreciate," "to find," "to leave" and "to know." All the way through, the major emphasis is outside of ourselves. This is a unique thought among today's success-oriented literature.
If you are like me, you have read all the "must-read" leadership books. Again and again the focus of attention is on one's outer self: how smart I can appear, what a good impression I can make, how much I can own, how I can control, or how fast I can be promoted. It never ends.
None of these books emphasize the heart, the inner being, the seed plot of our thoughts, motives, and decisions. The Bible says little about success, but it does have a lot to say about the heart. I submit that it is the heart where true success originates. Small wonder that Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, challenges his readers in the book of Proverbs with the following thought: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
As military members, we all know what it means to guard something. Solomon urges us to put a sentinel on duty. Watch the heart carefully. Protect it. Pay attention to it. Keep it clean. Clear away the debris. Remember, bad stuff can easily hide out in the heart: "evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly." (Mark 7:21-22)
So the question remains: How's your heart and are you guarding it? It alone holds the secrets of true success. Its treasures are priceless, but they can be stolen.
Emerson's thoughts on success are profound, well worth being memorized. But this business of the heart needs to be added. Guarding it is essential, not optional. Success can easily become failures. All it takes is letting our guard down. Take some time today to re-evaluate your ideas about success in this life.