Tuesday, November 19, 2013

purpose in life does not equal achievement

i've struggled for some time now trying to determine what place (if any) there is in my life for ambitious behaviour. on one hand it speaks to growth, a desire to improve my situation and to share my own gifts in my own circles but on the other hand it could also upset the apple cart if you're basically content (like me) with how things are.
this struggle is seen almost exclusively in my vocational life right now. it comes from a belief that i could do well if i moved up the ladder and on some level a belief that i deserve something like that. it also has some significant drawbacks though. a change of job description would mean that i'm not working with the people groups that i'm presently working with. essentially i'd go from a place where i feel like i'm helping the poor toward getting past their barriers and onward to a better life (hopefully) just so i could become the guy helping the folks who are helping the poor. it'd mean that i'd become a manager advising the rich on how better to manage helping the poor.
don't get me wrong, i fully believe that i'd be very good as a manager and i do have some expertise that i can impart to people so they can be more effective. i already know however that i'm good at what i do and i already know the level of fulfillment that i experience in the chair that i'm sitting in.
my seed group in my church community is fully involved in a study of Voluntary Simplicity. Wendy had what i thought was a great thought when we started into this seed group saying "since our lives are so full of involuntary complexity it'd be nice to have a little voluntary simplicity". i chuckled when she said it because it couldn't be more true for us. our life together is full of all sorts of tasks, rules, complexities and safeguards so that regularly i just want to be a hermit and run off to find a little personal order. anyway, voluntary simplicity tries to speak to a counter-cultural approach to living our lives together on this earth. it centers on values (hopefully our own values) that say that it isn't necessary to acquire everything in our search for belonging, for community, for life. the moments where you have felt the most connection to the world around you most likely had to do with your relationships or with the natural world around you anyway and nothing to do with acquiring whatever it is that you wanted to acquire. it speaks to a desire to purge our lives of the unnecessary, to live more simply and to share our meager but most prized possessions, our lives themselves.
i was sitting in seed group a couple of weeks ago when someone pulled out a quote from the book we're trying to walk through together as part of our study. the quote said ...

Purpose in life does not equal achievement.

it stopped me short.
there's probably a decent chance that i'm taking the author out of context but i immediately made a little tangent to my own struggle to determine what place ambition has in my life.
achievement although wonderful in its own right, is fleeting. you are forgotten just as soon as the next person with the next achievement comes along. purpose in life is a different goal however. it doesn't mean that purpose in life cannot be found in achievement but at least for me achievement needs to include purpose in life, otherwise what am i really doing with that? a raise in salary is always helpful but i really do think that some people undervalue how important it is to be happy in the work that we do.
i'll likely still keep trying to move up the ladder, but i'm also going to be careful. the relationships to those around me and the world around me really do help to determine my own purpose in life and i won't just discount that because i want a little more recognition.

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