We are looking for ways and means to become more successful; the definition of such is really personal and has nothing to do with fame or fortune. Rather, it revolves around our ability towards being happy. Of course, the implication here is that successful people are happy people. And as long as you do not have a contorted view of success, such as I will step on as many people as I have to get rich, then this implication tends to hold true.
Happiness itself is a very strange word to define. Charles Haanel, in his groundbreaking 1912 work on metaphysical mindset and success entitled, The Master Key System, defines happiness as three separate and distinct entities that must exist to varying degrees within a person’s purview.
They are health, wealth, and love. Haanel suggested that if a person has the three of those entities to the degree of their satisfaction, they are, by definition, happy! Florence Scovel Shinn, in her 1925 publication, The Game of Life, adds a fourth dimension to happiness: Self Expression. She calls the four keys of happiness the “square of life.”
Since happiness and success are inexorably linked as we strive for one, we tend to get more of the other. This collinear relationship can assist us in building additional groundswell and momentum. In other words, when success increases, happiness increases as a result of the increase in success, and as happiness increases, we become more successful as a result of the increase in happiness.
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
But the question before us today is how do we react to that increase of success when it occurs? This is a very important question to answer as our life, in this wonderful cause and effect universe, means that an “effect” can become a cause for an entirely new effect. And if we are not careful, what started as a noble endeavor, can lead to ruin. Our mental responses to future increased success and happiness, is truly contingent upon how we react to our current level of success and happiness!
There are two “H” camps that form possible responses to the level of success we are currently enjoying: One “H” camp is hubris; the other is humility. We get to choose our response initially, but eventually it will become habit and the response will become automatic.
If hubris is chosen as an initial response to success, we tend to be overtly proud of our accomplishments and incline to want to tell the world how great we are and that the world should “get in line” and follow our path toward attainment. The focus is off of our accomplishments and is centered on us! We become the focal point instead of what we did! In Greek tragedies, hubris was considered excessive pride in defiance of the gods.
“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” – C.S. Lewis
It is easy to fall into this trap of thinking how great we are, because of the hard work and effort we put into our achievements. This is how hubris becomes established as a habit of behavior.
There might be a better path to consider traveling; that of humility. Being humble in the face of your accomplishments tells the world (and more important, yourself; your self-image) that you alone were not responsible for what you accomplished. That you had assistance from your parents (who had you), your teachers (who molded you), your friends (who socialized you), your business associates (who vetted you), and a cadre of others.
Humility gives them thanks for the way they touched you throughout your life. Be careful! Humility is fickle. When you begin to think you have enough humility, you begin to lose some!
Here are a few ideas for developing a healthy dose of humility in your life:
- Spend a few minutes in quite meditation – If not overt mediation, at least in quiet time where you can start making the connections between your success and the people that assisted you.
- Spend time thinking about happiness – Happiness is a present condition. If you wait for some future event to occur before you are happy, you are robbing yourself of the chance to be happy NOW.
- Think about the linkage between a productive existence and a happy life – Are you sacrificing too much now, for some future event? If so, is that sacrifice causing regret, remorse and guilt now? (It’s hard to celebrate your success and be happy now when you are carrying all that emotional baggage.)
- Begin to practice non-resistance – Don’t be a doormat but learn to bend and let go. Acceptance of what exists is a great start! Try not to argue too much with reality. It has no sense of humor! This will cause happiness to flood into your life. (And remember happiness and success are linked. When you get more of one, you get more of the other!)
- Be grateful – Show gratitude! Thank whoever it is you believe created the universe for the wonderful opportunity you have to show your skills and talents. And, for what you already have AND for what you will get in the future. In the words of Father Solanus Casey, OFM, “Thank God ahead of time.”