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Most of us have been conditioned to define success in narrow terms.  Too frequently we judge our own success, and the success of others, by what is accomplished at work.  Successful people are described as those who have a “good job,” “make good money,” or have “reached the top” in their field.  From early childhood on many people are taught to equate success with pay increases and promotions.  Too often, unfortunately, people who try to achieve these career goals are forced to give up everything else that gives purpose and meaning to their lives.  Actor Ralph Fiennes has stated, “I call people successful not because they have money or their business is doing well but because, as human beings, they have a fully developed sense of being alive and engaged in a lifetime task of collaboration with other human beings—their mothers and fathers, their family, their friends, their loved ones, the friends who are dying, the friends who are being born.”  The traditional success model defined success almost exclusively in terms of work life.  The model emphasized working long hours, reaching work-related goals, and meeting standards often set by others.  In the life of such a person, everything that has meaning seems to be connected to the job.  When a person defines himself or herself by a job and then loses that job, what does that person have left?  This model is a major obstacle for advancement and career transitions.  A person can have the opportunity from manager to district supervisor, and turn the offer down because of fear of change.  In some cases, refusing a transition is a better move.  For example, in the summer of 2008, with nearly 4 years of experience as a security officer, I was offered an opportunity to become a field manager.  Although field managers get better pay and benefits, it comes with a price.  If I had accepted the offer, I would have no social life whatsoever.  There are many times where field managers are required to work at least 12 hour days for weeks at a time, and there is very little organization in management of the company I work for.   Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles gave the following advice:  “If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything that you experience in your life.  This includes the level of your achievements, the results you produce, the quality of your relationships, the state of your health and physical fitness, your income, your debts, your feelings—everything!

Many people who once viewed success in terms of wealth, material possessions, and status are realizing that something is missing from their lives.  They do not feel successful.  They once felt pressured to “have it all” but now feel disappointed that their achievements have not brought them real happiness. People who focus primarily on “feel-good” happiness discover that this source of satisfaction rarely lasts more than a few hours.  It is “value-based” happiness that gives life meaning over the long run.  Many people are determinedly seeking spiritual and moral anchors in their lives and in their work.  People who live in uncertain times seem to attach more importance to spirituality.

Life is precious and fleeting; live in the moment, and simplify your days to make time for what really matters.  A simple life is a truly successful life.


American Dream

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Everything regarding the American Dream was found on the Wiki Journal, and it is all true:

The American Dream is the freedom that allows all citizens and most residents’ of the United States to pursue their goals in life through hard work and free choice.

The phrase’s meaning has evolved over the course of American history. The Founding Fathers used the phrase, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  It began as the opportunity to achieve greater material prosperity than was possible in their countries of origin. For others it is the opportunity for their children to grow up and receive an education and its resulting career opportunities.  It is the opportunity to make individual choices without the restrictions of class, religion, race, or ethnic group.

It should be noted that the counterculture of the 1960s’ America introduced for the first time an American Dream directly opposed to the traditional "Dream". Whereas tradition stressed monetary gain, the hippie movement valued spiritual gain. Since then, the spectrum has continued to widen to include less generalized, more personal definitions.

Historian and writer James Truslow Adams coined the phrase "American Dream" in his 1931 book Epic of America:

“The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.  It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it.  It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position”

The American Dream that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily.  It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.

The "rags to riches" legend has and continues to be a cornerstone of the American Dream.  The traditional message taught that through hard work, frugality, and self-sacrifice one could achieve financial success and social mobility.  Ben Franklin counseled industry, Abraham Lincoln sang the praises of the northern labor system, and Horatio Alger instilled hope in generations of Americans.  All three helped to establish basic guidelines for success in a land of infinite possibility.

There are unquestionably many Americans who continue to abide by such tenets and in doing so are rewarded for their efforts.  Yet there are also those who have come to believe that the American Dream’s promise of riches is just that, a promise, and as such they feel entitled to instant financial success.  Nor has the socio-corporate climate in America disappointed such a belief.  Savvy television producers and marketing executives have latched on to the core of the American Dream.  They understand that Americans are enthralled with striking it rich.  Thus millionaire game shows are designed to make winning seem easy.  Lotteries are marketed in such a way that one thinks they have a real shot at cashing in.  The reality in both instances is that achieving the American Dream through such means is a long shot at best.  Too much chance exists.  Too much luck is necessary.

What is the end effect on society?  Do millionaire game shows and promises of lottery millions help to further erode the ethic of work and self-reliance that once embodied the American Dream, replacing it with an ethic of luck?  Or are these sources of instant gratification merely products of an ethic already lost to some Americans?  Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The even darker side to this cultural phenomenon is how the sense of entitlement has spilled over into a lack of responsibility.  The fact that so many Americans are willing to utilize litigation to cash in on the American Dream is disheartening.  Failing to take responsibility for their own mistakes, plaintiffs look to the legal system to make misfortune into fortune.  Again, marketing and an avalanche of advertising by personal injury lawyers helps encourage would-be injury victims.  Still, the readiness of people to sue is a key social factor.

Ultimately, most Americans would like to achieve the American Dream of financial independence.  Yet it is the means to achieving it that is essential to the nation’s ethical foundations.  It seems that many Americans covet the easy road to the Dream and in the process undercut the core values that established the Dream in the first place.  Equally culpable are the big businesses that capitalize on the quest for the Dream.  In an ironic sense, such businesses are fulfilling the Dream for themselves while dangling the possibility of the Dream over the heads of the public.  There can be little doubt that the producers of the millionaire games shows, the state lotteries, and lawyers are getting rich on other people’s yearning for the American Dream.

A Prayer

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A friend sent me this via email and I could not resist making this more public.

Here is a prayer that was given to some lawmakers in 1996.  How true are these words in 2009?  If you are a leader at home, business, personal life are we trying to save face or save souls?  As a Christian, what is our agenda as we share Christ and his example to others?   

Heavenly Father,

We come before You today to ask Your Forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ”Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our Spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that; we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism; We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism; We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle; We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery; We have neglected the needy and called it self preservation; We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare; We have killed our unborn and called it choice; We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable; We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem; We have abused power and called it political savvy; We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition; We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression; We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of this state and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state of Kansas. Grant them your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your Will.

I ask in in the name of your Son, The Living Savior, Jesus Christ