Many successful people have had breakthroughs to overcoming most of their fears, overcoming the resistances of the people, places and the past, and try their best to tame their ego and live a disciplined, focused life. However, this final part is the one that many successful people unknowingly have not broken free from and sometimes it was these motivators what got them to become successful or wealthy. This final part of true freedom is breaking through the enslavement that comes with having desires.
This is probably is the hardest one to swallow with most successful people. These desires when too extreme can be turned into core idols like love (and sex), money, success, and power. The human heart is an idol factory. Tim Keller talks about this in Counterfeit Gods and when we make these idols so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.
The popular music and art of our society calls us to load all of our deepest needs of our hearts for significance and transcendence into romance and love. “You’re nobody till somebody loves you,” goes a lot of popular songs, and we as an entire culture have taken it literally. We maintain the fantasy that if we find our one true soul mate, everything with us will be healed. No love, or human being, is qualified for that role and can live up to that. The inevitable result is bitter disillusionment.
What we need to do instead is truly love ourselves 100%. Until we can love ourselves 100%, we will never be able to properly love anyone else because there will always be a little selfish intent of loving someone else in order to fill the void of love within oneself.
Most people can’t see their own greed. You don’t compare yourself to the rest of the world, you compare yourself to those in your socioeconomic bracket. The human heart always want to justify itself and this is one of the easiest ways. Jesus says to his listeners: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” What is greed? Greed is not only the love of money, but excessive anxiety about it. To “consist” of your possessions is to be defined by what you own and consume. The term describes a personal identity based on money.
Being in an industry where millionaires are created by young people in relatively short periods of time, I’ve seen money change people for the best and many times spiral down for the worst. The danger comes when their own wealth is a reflection of “self”, and when they lose their wealth, their personal worth is attached to their financial worth. I’ve seen many people make more money and become even less happier because they realize that once you have it all, why are they still unhappy?
This does not mean you shouldn’t have an attitude towards abundance. When you find alignment in your life, you realize that the possessions in your life might give short-term happiness, but stewarding your resources to give back and contribute to the world makes a long-lasting permanent impact to the world around us.
Achievement is the alcohol of our time. A sign that you have made achievement an idol is that it distorts your view of yourself. When your achievements serve as the basis for your very worth as a person, they can lead to an inflated view of your abilities. This is something that I have struggled with most of my life from an early age always trying to be the “overachiever” and still do.
More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength, and performance. One sign that you have made success an idol is the false sense of security it brings. Successful people are much more shocked and overwhelmed by troubles.
The danger happens when our worth is attached to winning. Success is a difficult one to expel, rather replaced by loving yourself completely – during the good, bad, and ugly times in your life. During my mid-20s, I lost it all and felt my self-worth lost because of it. After some time, I realized the danger of this and was able to stay joyful, hopeful and to love myself. That transformation helped me enter entrepreneurship at a newer perspective and has grounded me.
The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. We often take good things like a successful career, our role with our families, our stature in our communities, or our leadership roles and turn them into ultimate things.
Buddha talks about the cause of suffering being the desire whether it be love, power, thirst. When the love of one’s people becomes an absolute, it turns into racism. When love of equality turns into a supreme thing, it can result in hatred and violence toward anyone who has led a privileged life. It is a settled tendency of human societies to turn good political causes into counterfeit gods.
Our free will on this Earth gives us the illusion we are in complete control of our lives and “masters of our fate.” Especially during the hard times in my lives where I couldn’t see why certain events happened in my life, I later realized that not only was I not in full control, but there was something Greater in my life that was in control. When one door closed, I always had a bigger door was waiting for me to open it. The difficult times gave me perseverance which only helped me not only relate to other people, but develop my character.
Don’t worry about what you can’t control, concentrate on what you can control, for that’s the key to your overall wellbeing.