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Is the Story of Your Life About You?

I am reading (and responding to) this blog post by Travis Roberston I read this morning: "What Would You Do If You Were Guaranteed to Succeed?"

The author asks his readers what they would do if they were guaranteed to succeed, and some commenters listed their dreams and what is holding them back from accomplishing them.

It's all very inspiring stuff, and to a certain degree, I can relate to the discussion. However, it does raise this question for me: How do you define success?

I challenged Travis with this, and he responded (for the sake of discussion) with the subjective definition that success is whatever an individual wants to happen in a given situation.

For me, that line of thinking is tragically flawed. It just seems right to think of our lives as stories rather than as a laundry list of goals.

This is a personal issue for me, as I'm a very goal-oriented person, and this is a lesson that God is teaching me right now. It's quite easy for me to think about my life and what I want to happen, but the hard lesson I'm learning is this: My life isn't just about me and what I want.

Moreover, what I want doesn't always happen, nor should it.

A wise man once told me that this is the perpetual theme of life — dying to self. Each season introduces the same lesson in a new way. As we move from independent living to having others rely upon us, we learn that this thing isn't just about us as individuals, but also about us in the collective sense.

We need each other, and one of life's great lessons is that as we give our lives away for others (which is counter-intuitive for most of us), our lives become fuller and richer. It's a paradox, but a beautiful one.

He who gives his life away will find it.

And he who tries to keep his life will lose it.

If life is a story, and I a character in it, then what I want to happen won't always happen, and that will be a good thing. I'm not saying that it's bad to want things, but it's flawed logic to consider "success" the acquisition of all things that we desire.

A working definition of success for me is this: The unfolding of events that causes my character to grow in such a way that I have a better grasp of the overall story.

(I have to be honest; some of this stuff I never would have thought about, had I not read Don Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.)

What's your definition of success?