We have countless tools for measuring things – how fast, how far, how heavy, how big or small. It can seem like we can measure it all. However, how do you measure success? It is simple to fall into the trap of trying to measure success using other people’s tools too. How much money, how much prestige, what type of career? How big is their house? What type of car, degree, awards they have earned? However, I work with so many apparently successful people who are miserable. Why, because they are measuring their success by what others tell them is important. I’ve done it too. Reaching goal after goal, only to ask myself, is this all there is? Why wasn’t I happy after achieving all each and every goal I set for myself? The reason is simple. Measuring success involves looking within. True success is about whether we are growing in our ability to love, and experience happiness. Awards and recognition are great. We always want to keep striving to be our best. But we want to be sure we are putting our efforts into things that really matter to us. Are you working towards that next award because it is important to you, or because other people will be impressed? If it’s just to impress others, your feelings of success will be short lived. However, if you are increasing your ability to experience the spirit of God in all thing, that feeling of success never goes away. Is your ability to see God in yourself and others growing? Are you connecting more with others in a really meaningful way? That is true success.
This week we will discuss how we will discuss what success means to us. We will also discuss that perfection is never a part of success and how we want to strive to do our best every day, but that if we are challenging ourselves to grow, then we will make mistakes. The key is to learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward. As the book A Joyful Path states, “The flower opens its petals and leaves to the sun and shares what it is with the world. A tree grows branches that reach out and up to the sky, sharing what it is with the world. Imagine the light in your heart growing and expanding out into the world. As you help that light grow brighter and stronger, you are succeeding in your inner purpose to share divine light with the world. Remember that the light is within you, through all outward failures and successes.”
AFFIRMATION: My success is measured in happiness and peace within.
Story: The Isaacs Have a Party Adapted from a Jewish folktale
Raziella was a plain little woman who lived in an ordinary little house in an unremarkable little town. There was nothing fancy about her at all. She was not the mayor or the judge, but she was often consulted when a decision needed to be made or a problem resolved. When people followed her advice, things turned out well. Her garden was the most abundant one in town, and she made the best potato pancakes you could find anywhere. Everyone in the town loved and respected her.
Mr. and Mrs. Isaac bought land and a big house on the edge town. They wanted to make a good impression with all the neighbors, so they planned a party. But they were only interested in being friends with important, successful people, so they told the butler to be very careful about passing out the invitations. The butler first invited the mayor and the judge. Then he invited the people who lived in the biggest houses on Main Street and on First Street. He gave an invitation to old General Gruber because a statue of the general stood in the city park. He made sure the teacher of the year was invited, and he gave invitations to the entire hockey team because they won the state championship. Then he gave one to Hilda, who owned Hilda’s Home Furnishings Superstore, which was big enough to fill a city block. Of course, the man who owned the bank was invited, and the last invitation went to the actress who had the lead role in the upcoming play. The party was underway when one of the hockey players asked the butler, “Why didn’t you invite Raziella? She is the most important and successful person in town.”
The butler was horrified. What if his employers discovered his mistake? He ran all the way to Raziella’s house. Every morning Raziella spent time in prayer, watched the sunrise, and then worked in her garden. That was where the butler found her. He hastily explained about the party and his employers and asked that she come with him immediately. He appeared so upset, she agreed to come and hurried with him back to the party. Still worried that his employers would discover his mistake, the butler asked Raziella to wait in the kitchen while he went to the dining room and set a place for her at the elegant dinner table.
Mr. and Mrs. Isaac walked into the kitchen to check on the food, and they saw a plain little woman in dirty clothes, a torn apron, and muddy shoes. “What are you doing here?” they asked. “Your butler asked me to come,” Raziella explained with a kind smile. “That can’t be right — look at your clothes!” The Isaacs were confused. “We are having a dinner party for important, successful people, not people with dirty, torn clothes! You can’t be here—please leave and take your muddy shoes with you!”
Raziella calmly left, but there was a twinkle in her eye. She didn’t go home; she walked to a friend’s house. There she washed, and her friend took out her fanciest clothes from the back of the closet. Raziella borrowed the loveliest dress, the shiniest jewelry, and the most stylish shoes and purse. Then, with a sparkling diamond comb in her hair, she went back to the party.
This time she went in the front door and was greeted by the Isaacs with eager smiles. They didn’t recognize her as the same woman they kicked out of the kitchen. She was offered wine and the seat at the head of the table. After dinner was served to all the guests and they began to eat, Raziella picked up her spoon and began to scoop soup into her lap. Everyone stared in amazement, and the hockey player grinned. Raziella opened her purse and filled it with salad. Then, she picked up her fork and put beans in her pockets. When Raziella picked up the gravy spoon, the Isaacs stood up and gasped, “What are you doing?”
Raziella looked up before pouring gravy on her shoes and said, “It seems clear that you invited the clothes to the party, so I am just making sure the clothes enjoy this delicious dinner.” The hockey player stifled a laugh, and the other guests wondered what would happen next. The Isaacs were astonished to realize their mistake. “We were so worried about making a good impression — we would like to try again. Would you, Raziella, like to come to our party?” Mr. Isaac said with a red face. Raziella rose and replied with a smile, “The clothes thank you for the wonderful meal. I would be happy to come to your party—after I change.”
Lesson adapted from A JOYFUL PATH: Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds, Year 1 of the Inner Wisdom Series