November 27th, 2011 12:19 PM by Lehel S.
Living A Life of Ultimate, Personal Success
Last week I quoted Henry Thoreau's famous observation that "most people live lives of quiet desperation." I love that line and believe it's true, although whenever I use it, I notice that lots of people object. It's uncomfortable to think we could do better, that life could be richer, fuller, easier and more exciting and that too many of us take no action, or ineffective action, to make life better.
We live in the richest, best time in history! Education is available to everyone, either through formal training or public libraries, classes, mentors, coaches or trial-and- error. (The tuition on that last can be higher than it seems, but the concept holds true.)
We have access to the best, most varied and safest food supply ever known. We watch live television from around the world and think nothing of it! We email, text, Twitter or use Facebook, not to mention Skype or cell phones to stay in constant contact -- almost to the point of distraction! We live in the most comfortable homes ever built, and in America we have more than one car for every driver! What a world we live in! It's unbelievable!
And yet. We are bombarded with so much stuff and so many choices, so much noise and so many invitations that life becomes hectic, stressed, and confusing. Most people's lives are anything but peaceful, satisfying and content.
Back in 1976, Erich Fromm wrote a profound little book called, "To Have or To Be?" His predictions about politics have not yet worked out, but his observation that when we are bombarded with too much to do, and believe we must acquire too many things (toys, tools, consumables), we inevitably become over-whelmed and lose our way seems hauntingly close to reality.
In a grand, philosophical sense, the issues are:
Human beings DO stuff! We create and invent and build things. We work hard to make a life for ourselves. I've often noted that I've never met a lazy person! I've met folks who are discouraged, depressed, even fatalistic, but I've never met anyone who didn't work very hard when they had a clear goal and a path to achieve it. We are hard- working, dynamic creatures! In the poet's words, we must "be up and doing" -- nearly all the time!
And we want stuff. We desire to own and possess material things like homes and cars and televisions, and we are eager to "have" more spiritual things. We want to have a family, a lover, a place in the community, and a sense of well-being.
We "do" stuff partly because that's our nature, but we also work to acquire things that bring prestige, security, and meaning to our lives.
That leaves "Being." This is the most spiritual of the three. It's the hardest to define, the most difficult to measure, and for many of us, it's the most important. Very few of us define ourselves as "Human Doings!" And the idea that we are "Creatures Who Have Stuff" is singularly unfulfilling.
It's this Being thing that brings joy. It's Being that fulfills our spirituality, our sense of living "on purpose"
and being at peace with ourselves. No matter how much stuff we have or how fancy it is, it can never give us inner peace. Staying busy (doing) can keep us pre-occupied, but it, too, ultimately leaves us exhausted and unfulfilled.
And yet society rarely focuses on the very thing we long for, the fact that we want to BE WHO WE ARE!
I know this is the most philosophical TIPS I've written in a long time. For those who want something more practical, I apologize and promise to get back on track next week. But I also think these questions about how we live our lives, what we live for, and how we define success are critically important!
A World Class Life certainly includes financial and material success! No one denies that having nice stuff is a good thing! And, since we can't help or keep from DOING things, it's essential that we spend our time and energy doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time. It's nice if we can do them efficiently, productively, and "on purpose!" That's what makes DOING so much fun! But ultimately, a World Class Life requires that all the having and doing add up to something more. We want to BE someone we can respect, someone we admire. We want to feel good and be proud of who we become in the process!