In these times of financial and political turmoil, we have more questions than answers. What is success? How to find fulfillment? Many ask. Is money really the biggest factor in finding fulfillment? How is it possible for those with minimal material assets to be happier than the rich? Can you use spiritual solutions to solve material problems? ...questions, questions and more questions.
We all work hard to put aside savings. When we lose financial sustainability, we often question our success. That is because we generally measure success by our bank balance, our job title, the car we drive and the restaurants we frequent. All of these may be fleeting, through no fault of our own. So, is quality of life always dependent on financial success? No.
Fulfillment goes beyond accumulating wealth or status. It includes enjoying what you have—good health, friends, inner peace and spiritual development—all the while using your talents to contribute to the society. I call this spiritual sustainability.
Failure of success
Material success is important but it may not be permanent. Despite the sweetness of success, material comfort and financial security have their limitations. n fact, one of the downsides of success—without the spiritual element that brings fulfillment—is stress, which can compromise good health and/or cause strained relationships. Etched in my memory are my meetings with an extremely wealthy businessman who was confined to his bed for years after a paralysing stroke, no longer able to enjoy his millions. He exemplified the failure of success—ill health that prevented him from sharing the wisdom he had acquired as a leader in several industries. For others, the stress of success leads to breakdowns in their relationships, resulting in loneliness.
Today, professionals whose careers are being sidetracked by down sizing and entrepreneurs whose ventures are losing money, ask me, how they can find a purpose in life. Whether they feel a deep inner void, or have the desire to rebuild a more permanent kind of sustainability, many are experiencing an impetus to make positive changes in their lives, in a way that will ultimately benefit others. Spiritual sustainability, not money in the bank, brings permanent solutions to personal and global problems. After all, the Soul does not get affected by the stock market movements or media headlines.
From success to fulfillment
How do you transform the knowledge and skills brought by success into the satisfaction that comes with fulfillment? History offers ample examples of men and women challenged by difficult circumstances. These people transmuted their success into a noble cause to uplift humanity and benefit the world. This is how they found fulfillment. Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa are good examples of successful professionals who have earned acclaim for their willingness to champion causes in favour of the nation and poor.
Gandhi began as a shy child, whose father’s death led him to a career in law. He went on to use his legal skills to spearhead the non-violence movement that won India independence. As for Mother Teresa, she taught geography in some high school. Over time, she experienced ‘a calling’ to help the poorest of the poor. With no personal capital, this petite nun established the Missionaries of Charity. Her good work later earned her the Nobel Peace Prize.
Like material success, spiritual sustainability comes through taking action. There are masters, sages and spiritual teachers, who are untouched by the world of chaos and. How can we achieve spiritual sustainability in chaotic times?
You can do this by getting rid of preoccupation with the non-essentials in life and not by ignoring urgent and important things in life. These are the major causes of failure of success and lack of fulfillment.
Over-concentration on fears, guilt, grief or anger only pulls you farther away from your goals. Negative thoughts and emotions slow you down and derail progress. See setbacks—financial or other kind—as temporary bumps on the road to lasting fulfillment.
How does one do that when there is so much negative energy, fear and anger around? I am confident that we can reclaim our good life. We can convert the ‘good life’ of material success into a ‘fulfilled life’ by transforming our ‘career path’ into a ‘life path’.
Work is just a tool to achieve what we want in life. Money is a reward, a motivation to do even better. As spiritual beings, we are responsible to ourselves and accountable to serve and improve the life of those around us. We have families to feed, educate and enrich so we can enjoy and share our success with our loved ones, and help them discover the path to fulfillment.
Focus on fulfillment
When people ask me how to remain focused on fulfillment when all are worried about the future, I recommend them to:
- Release pent-up emotions and negative thinking patterns.
- Build physical vitality. This helps overcome the negative effects of stress that are often a by-product of success. Learn some form of exercise.
- Practice will-power development technique. They help boost your mental stamina. You will achieve your goals faster as you will be able to pay full attention to daily tasks as well as your long-term goals. You will develop the power that will keep you going no matter what.
- Look for opportunities to be of service to others. This will increase your sense of usefulness and fulfillment.
Sides of the triangle
While love is an important aspect of fulfillment, it is only one part of the three-part equation. I call it the ‘Triangle of Success and Fulfillment’ and illustrate it with Shiva representing Will and Power, Vishnu representing Love and Wisdom, and Brahma representing Creative Intelligence.
If you are the loving type, you need to build your willpower and stamina so that you can accomplish your goals. Also, so you do not absorb the negativity of others around you. If you are the hard-driving business type, you need to develop the heart and the love aspect of your nature. Of course, we all need creative intelligence to be successful.
Many of today’s modern yogis are business people and scientists living in cities. They may not meditate in the classic sense, but they devote their lives to finding solutions to complex worldly issues. Karma yoga trains these practitioners to develop skills in action for service. Jnana yoga develops the mind, both concrete and abstract, to gain knowledge and deepen an understanding of life’s purpose. This leads to enlightenment. The path of the Karma and Jnana yogi can be integrated to be one of the most powerful paths. From their ranks will come modern saints and spiritual initiates.
Intentional attitude changes are essential in developing a life of spiritual sustainability and fulfillment. You need to culture universal virtues that predictably lead to win-win outcomes. The eight key universal virtues are:
- Discipline and constancy for continued great achievements
- Will-power and vitality for fast and long-lasting performance
- Practicality to develop the power of positive discrimination—the antidote to fanaticism
- Benevolence to achieve happiness and right human relations—the key to accessing greater power safely
- Altruism for long-lasting prosperity and sustained abundance
- Group consciousness for greatness, powerful service and to become a legend
- Sacrifice of lesser goals for larger ones that benefit society
- Good health to enjoy what you have achieved, and to be able to share the wisdom gained from success and fulfillment.
While all are important, developing altruism opens the door to creating sustained wealth in the future. To be altruistic is not just being generous at the financial or material levels, but also at the spiritual, mental, emotional and energy levels in a more unconditional, unselfish way.
Abundance in life is not only measured in financial assets, but also in intangibles like good health, happiness, peace of mind, smooth-sailing projects and life’s fulfillment. Fostering altruism is one of the most important things you can do in your quest for fulfillment.
People talk about self-realisation knowing who they are as individuals and pursuing activities that bring success, and the path of self-actualisation. But it is not the goal, but the means—a process. Through it materialises a higher truth or idea. This greater idea can then be acted upon to serve a bigger need reach a larger goal.
Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi—all have done things this way.
Self-actualisation is a path of living as a Soul—today, not tomorrow. When I look at the anatomy of a human being, I see the Spirit, the Soul and the Personality encompassing the physical body, emotions and mind. Earlier, the goal was to subdue the Personality, also referred to as the ego.
This led to people becoming mystical practitioners. This is fine when people did not have to go out to make a living.
But to solve today’s problems, we need the mind.
Therefore, I say:
- The Spirit is great! It’s the source of Life.
- The Soul is noble! It’s the transmitter of Divine light.
- The Personality is wonderful! It is working so hard on its own level to facilitate the Soul’s evolution.
There is a relationship between Spirit, Soul and Personality. When it comes to transforming success into fulfillment and working for higher projects, I believe there are always new things we can discover and experience in life and that we as human beings, given the right maturity and life tools, will “grow stronger and wiser through change”.
With spiritual sustainability, new heroes who embody spiritual maturity will emerge, willing to undertake the cause of evolution not for personal gain but for the betterment of humanity and the world.
This was published in the November 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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