Live with Less and Still Be a Success
I have just seen Claude, the local tramp, the community charity case, scrounging a cigarette from a passer-by. Everyone knows Claude. His long white beard and dishevelled hair, his toothless grin, and his outstretched hand are ever-present outside the train station exit in the rush hour, as he “works” the passers by.
Today his is trying his luck in the town centre. A pedestrian hands him a cigarette, and Claude immediately lights it, sucking on it heavily, leaving a large cloud of smoke in his wake as he strides off purposefully to find his next conquest.
I am sure that Claude considers this as one of the successes of his day. If he can scrounge a few more cigarettes and also enough for a drink and a meal, then his day will have been a success. He doesn’t ask for much and doesn’t need much for him to be content. Is he a success then?
What is success anyway? What does it mean to you? What does it mean to me? What does it mean to Claude? How do we, or should we measure it? By what yardstick?
Personally, I spent many years tenaciously pursuing success in the traditional, material sense. What many would call the American Dream. I ended up with the big house, the Jaguar and the 4x4 in the driveway; kids at private schools, a property and financial investments portfolio, and a large income. Was I successful? I never asked myself the question at that time, I was too busy building a career and making money.
Yes, I suppose that in terms of material achievements, I was successful. I had done what I set out to do; got where I wanted to be. I should have been happy, and to some extent I was. Until one day it dawned on me that what I had achieved in fact, was what I had been programmed to achieve by my parents. I had lived up to THEIR idea of success, based on what they never had, and therefore wanted for me. I had satisfied their desires, but never truly questioned my own needs. When I did, whilst recuperating in hospital from a health problem brought on by stress from overwork, my definition of success began to change.
I began to focus my attention internally instead of externally. I read hundreds of books on spirituality, self improvement and personal development. I was hungry for knowledge and spiritual experience. I attended many, many seminars and workshops in several countries.
In short, I became a seeker. That was over eleven years ago, and I am now trying to put what I have learned into practise. What have I learned along the way? Well, for a start I have learned to live with less. I now live on one tenth of what I used to earn as an IT consultant – and I also have one tenth of the stress. I have given up smoking, and alcohol. I prefer walking to driving, and have discovered that it is possible to live happily without a car or a mobile phone.
It is the Journey, not the Destination that matters
I have come to understand, that it is the journey that matters, not the destination, and that it is how I feel on the inside, not what I have on the outside, that is important. I live simply. My priorities have changed, and yes I am happier and I live what amounts to a more authentic life – for me!
But the bottom line is, success for you is whatever you define it to be. Don’t listen to, and don’t be manipulated by TV, magazines and advertising campaigns. The pursuit of the American Dream is not the only way to be successful and happy, but we are never shown any alternative. It is a fallacy perpetrated and reinforced constantly by the media, advertisers and public relations people that we need all of their modern-day, life-quality enhancing paraphernalia. The truth is that they create the need where none existed, and then conveniently slot their products into the gap.
If we were to draw up a list of what we truly need in our lives, what is essential, the list would be short, and would certainly not include the latest technological gizmos. What has become known as downshifting is now becoming more common as more and more people realize that happiness and peace of mind are not found behind the wheel of a Ferrari, flying in a private jet, or salivating over the annual growth percentage of your stock market portfolio.
We are told that we must have a perfect body, perfect teeth, the big house, the expensive cars etc. We are conditioned to believe that if you don’t have these things, then you are a failure; that these things are essential components of happiness. This is simply not true, so don’t buy into it. Remember that success for you is whatever you define it to be and you do not need to justify your choice.
We can all learn a lesson from Claude. We don’t have to be like him, or to live his life to be able to apply the same principle.
Instead of always wanting more, we can still be a success if we learn to be satisfied with less!
© 2012 sannyasinman
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