We often focus our attention on attaining success in life – having a good job, saving up plenty of money, and having a nice house, car and other possessions.
The world indoctrinates us in this path from an early age.
If you have children, you should be aware that the world is already training up your children in the same way.
But is this how we should live? Is this how our children should live?
There’s a world of difference between success – which is often an external definition of our lives for public consumption – and happiness – which is more about how we truly feel on the inside.
Because the world encourages us to seek success so diligently, we almost need to have an entirely different mindset in order to find happiness.
Along that line, here are several things every parent should tell their kids – and themselves – about how to find true happiness in life – even if financial success never comes your way.
1God Loves You More Than You’ll Ever Know
You must understand and embrace this fact, no matter how you feel about yourself or how some others may feel about you. And your children must know it too.
What it means is that you are never unloved. Quite the opposite – you are dearly loved by the Creator of the universe. You must believe this.
The Apostle Paul confirmed this when he wrote:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39 NIV
2Failing Doesn’t Make You a Failure
Failing is a necessary step on the way to success – and that’s how you need to view it. Very few people are successful right out of the starting gate in any venture. In fact, the path to success is usually marked by a series of failures. As long as you learn something from your failures, they are almost always a step in the right direction.
It’s equally important to understand that defeat isn’t permanent. Never believe that you’re a failure simply because your most recent goal didn’t materialize. It may simply be that it was never meant to be. That being the case, get busy on the next venture. Success is assured as long as you don’t quit.
3“Do for others as you would have them do for you”
That’s actually a paraphrase from Matthew 7:12. Most of us expect people to treat us better than they often do. But do we hold ourselves to the same standard?
If you want to be treated better, start treating other people better. People tend to respond to the way you deal with them, and if you find yourself being mistreated too often, it may have something to do with your own behavior. If you don’t like the way people are interacting with you, it’s entirely possible that they’re simply responding to how you’re treating them.
This is especially true when you’re dealing with someone in a tense situation. Before reacting, ask yourself, “How would I want someone to treat me if the shoe were on the other foot?”
4Choose Your Friends Carefully
It’s often said that you are the average of your five closest friends. And there’s a lot of truth to that saying. As human beings, we tend to reflect and to imitate the behavior of the people closest to us.
This makes a strong case for being careful to choose friends who represent your beliefs, values, goals, and preferences in life. Are your friends the kind of people you respect and look up to? Are they the kind of people you would go to if you have a problem? Can you rely on them if you are in trouble? Do they reflect the kind of person who you would like to be?
Friends aren’t just people who we hang out with. They’re people who shape who we are – that means that you need to choose them wisely.
5The Road to Ruin Is Paved With Debt
Regrettably, we live in a culture and economy that encourages debt. The economy is largely built on people buying things that they can’t afford and making up the difference through loans.
A loan here and there – for example a car loan, and certainly a mortgage – are sometimes necessary. But if you find yourself borrowing money on credit cards to pay for clothing, restaurant meals, vacations, and various toys – or even borrowing too much to buy a house or a car – you are likely setting yourself up for an eventual disaster.
Most people don’t realize that they are in trouble with debt until they are already in trouble with it. Easy payment plans make it easy to ignore the true impact of debt, especially when you’re early in the process.
Becoming debt free – or close to it – enables you to keep your financial options open, and that puts you in a better position to achieve some measure of financial independence.
6People Are More Important Than Stuff
Materialism is another societal norm. It’s as if the person with the most stuff is the happiest. But don’t believe it.
People often substitute stuff for a lack of real connection with other people. But stuff can never give us what we can get from other people. God created us to rely on one another, and build each other up during times of distress. You can’t get those benefits from stuff, so it’s best to learn early in the game that people should always be more important than the possessions that you have.
7Forgive Others – Forgive Yourself
In the Lord’s Prayer, it says, ” . . . and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” (Matthew 6:12 NIV) Take that to heart! We will be forgiven by God in the measure that we forgive others. And when you’re tempted to withhold mercy from someone else, never forget that the day will come when you will need mercy from others.
You also need to forgive yourself. Guilt is a trap, and it can destroy your life if you allow it to. You will make mistakes, and at times you may even be the devil in someone else’s life. But when that happens, recognize your failure, seek forgiveness – then get on with your life.
8Make a Provision for the Future – But Live for Today
This is one of the real balancing acts in our culture, particularly if you are a Christian. We should be making a provision for the future so that we are in a position to deal with the uncertainties of life. But when this becomes the priority, we’re at risk of going in the wrong direction.
If your orientation toward the future is too great, you may be inviting the following risks:
- You’re so focused on your own future survival, that you may miss the needs of people close by
- You may miss the simple pleasures of today, while you are busy preparing for tomorrow
- You may not live long enough to enjoy your provision (Scriptural reference: Luke 12:16-21 – The Parable of the Rich Fool)
- Your emphasis on building your own provisions could blind you to the reality and necessity of God’s provision
Make a provision for the future, but live for today. Never be so obsessed with the future that the blessings, revelations, and opportunities of today are no longer relevant.
9It’s Not All About You – Or Me
We share the world with more than seven billion people. Each has their share of victories, and more than enough defeats. Neither your triumphs nor your tragedies are more important than those of other people around you.
Be prepared to genuinely celebrate the success of others. Also be prepared to help others in the face of their own tragedies. We all want others to celebrate our triumphs, and be there to pick up the pieces when we’re suffering. But we have no right to expect unless we first do the same for others.
This is also how you develop humility, and humility is the foundation better relationships with other people, and with our Heavenly Father. True happiness and success in life aren’t possible without it.
10Life is a Gift – Celebrate Each Day
None of us have any idea how much time we have in this life, or even what the quality of that time will be. Embrace the fact that life truly is a gift, and resolve to celebrate each day.
Avoid the tendency to believe that bad things have control over your life. They may have an undue influence at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that your life is ruined forever.
Each day has its own troubles, but it also has its own virtues. Do what you can to minimize your troubles, and then to embrace the goodness that’s around us every day if only we look for it. It’s just a better way to live, and a better way to be a witness to other believers and especially to non-believers.
After all, how we live – and what our attitudes are toward life – are our greatest witness to the world.
What are some other things you should tell your children or yourself? Leave a comment!