When Success Doesn’t Feel Successful…

3432922896_921099fe65_bThere’s something about a New Year that engages many of us in a fresh pursuit of success.  That’s what New Year’s resolutions are all about are about aren’t they?  We set goals to make more money, lose weight, exercise more etc, etc.  We’re excited about the prospect of starting anew and possibly gaining success in reaching our goals.

But, the problem with New Year’s resolutions is that it’s hard to keep going on the basis of the initial excitement.  In fact, many gym memberships never get used beyond that first 30 days.  Why is this the case?  Well, I think it’s because we misunderstand something which is critically important about the nature of success.  The truth is this:  Sometimes, success doesn’t actually feel very successful.

When it comes to feeling successful, our expectations are often high.  Part of the motivation to achieving any goal is the process of dreaming about the results we anticipate.  But the journey of success is often pitted against a reality which may not be even closely aligned with what we thought we were striving for.

One of the most interesting success journeys in the Bible for me is the story about the rise of King David.  Starting off as a Shepard, he finds himself plucked out the ‘line up’ and chosen by the prophet Samuel to be the next King of Israel.  Heady stuff!  But…not so fast.  First, he faces the jealously of his siblings and less than enthusiastic support of his stunning defeat of Goliath.

As a result of his the success of his military prowess, David is selected to be one of Saul’s commanders.  But once again, the enigma of success comes into play as David finds himself in the perilous position of being viewed as a threat by King Saul.  A position that carried with it the threat of personal extermination.  For years, David becomes somewhat of a vagabond, gathering a band of rebels who join forces with him as he finds himself labelled as a fugitive; one wanted by the Commander-in-Chief.  Not exactly what most of us would consider the optimal path for succession planning.

At issue is our perception of what we think the journey of success should look and feel like.  We tend to romanticize success.  As a result when the feelings or experience do not match up to the reality, it’s easy to feel defeated and deflated.  The truth is that success which rests its laurels on feelings is treading on shaky territory.  Feelings can be great indicators, but they are very poor reflectors of the measure of success.

The truth is that building new muscle will require some pain as we exercise a body which is not used to certain types of stress.  Loosing weight will require deprivation of food and also some exercise.  Double whammy.  And when you get to that ultimate weight, you are likely to find that not much may have changed.  You may still have the same mental, spiritual and emotional issues that were present before, even within a newly sculpted body.

Limiting our perception of the journey towards success or expectations of what  success feels like may make us actually miss the lessons and the blessings that success intends to teach us.  What if success at the highest level is about refining our character, strengthening our resolve and helping us to become more forgiving and compassionate towards ourselves and others?  What if success is intended to help us understand who we really are as we face giant obstacles which we must overcome?  What if success isn’t really about a feeling at all, but rather about experiencing the grace and goodness of God in a new way?

For additional information about the ups and downs of the life of one of Israel’s most succesful Kings, click this link.

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