This is a guest post by Philip A. Clemens, former Chairman and CEO of the Clemens Family Corporation. To read about Phil’s personal journey of how he specifically chose a lifestyle of contentment, check out the full article, Choosing Contentment.
Why do the majority of us try to impress others?
It probably begins as a child when you start to compare what you have or don’t have to others around you. Then, it is reinforced by so many others who really mean well. Sometimes it’s your parents who want you to have the best, so they can be seen as parents who give their kid only the best. It’s also reinforced by the kids you hang out with or by the “cool” kids in the neighborhood.
When you get a bit older, you try to impress people with your clothes, or you are impressed by the clothes others wear. Then it’s your first car. You want people to recognize that you have a great car. It soon moves to the person you date, then the college you choose (if you go to college), then the job you get, the person you marry, and even your kids. Oh! And then there is the house you live in.
You are continually seeking approval of others until it becomes a game. And you love it – especially when someone else notices – and you do everything you can to get them to notice. You also notice what other people are doing and then have to “one up” them. Then, they see what you did and “one up” you, and the cycle continues.
For others, you realize somewhere in this rat race that what impresses people the most isn’t things – it is who you are as a real person, stripped of all the things. You don’t want things to define you; you want you to define you. It’s a bit unnerving because you want people to accept you for you, not what you have. It’s a hard step to take, but when you take it, it is really freeing. You can quit the game, and things take a much lower priority in your life.
So, what if you got caught up in that trap and now you see you need to change? How do you do it?
1. Realize that change is not easy.
All the things you thought mattered most in life now take on almost no meaning. It’s tough to walk away from all those things and to have people accept you for who you are. It is a lot easier to hide behind things than to be truly exposed.
2. Define for yourself what real success in life is – not just what others think.
Success is neither a title, nor is it possessions, nor is it something that is unachievable. Too often we think success is a destination, and that when we reach our destination, we have arrived. But success isn’t a destination – it’s a journey. When we try to make it a destination and finally arrive, we realize the destination has changed and we haven’t really made it. In fact, we never arrive. Success is much more defined by who you are than by what you have achieved.
3. Success, if it is to be satisfying, must always come from the inside and not from the outside.
When others have seen you as successful, especially if they were measuring from a satisfaction perspective, it was probably at a time when you looked deep within yourself and noticed that the external things that you collected had nothing to do with your success. Your success had to do with your attitude. Joining up success with the concept of a lifestyle is really hard work. What makes one lifestyle successful for one person yet miserable for another person all depends on your attitude – who you are, not what you possess.
Is your lifestyle one that glorifies God or makes you stand out? You do have a choice. Choose wisely. It will make an eternal difference.
For five keys to living a lifestyle of contentment, read Phil's blog post here.