Inspirational

Learning to Measure Success in Units of Joy

measure of success

When I was a young woman I longed to finish college so I could finally obtain a high paying job that could give me financial security. As a college student I waited tables to make ends meet, but they hardly ever came together. I scraped by, counting change for gas, begging the phone company to give me another week and not turn my landline off. The difficulties of working full-time while attending college full-time are what eventually convinced me to join the military. They offered a dependable income, free housing, and a chance to travel. Sounded good to me. I can still remember gazing at martini stir sticks with glass fish at the top in a Pier One magazine, and thinking that once I got settled into the military I could afford finer things. Yep, I gazed at grownup bobbles yearning to possess them. It was how I measured success. To not scrimp and save, yet never get ahead. To own a home! A two-story, white colonial with navy blue shutters… That was the measure of success.

Designer clothing. To be able to shop upscale, not WalMart clearance rack.

I wanted a car that was dependable, one I didn’t constantly worry about breaking down.

That was the measure of success.

A saving’s account that I never had to dip into.

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Taking two-week vacations where you got on an airplane and flew somewhere exotic. Not the back of your parent’s stale minivan for eight hours.

That was the measure of success.

You hear people brag about their children getting into Harvard.

Mothers brag about their son’s promotion. He’ll have to travel more for work now, but they can also get the bigger house.

This is a measure of success.

Career advancement, more pay, a bigger home.

Monogrammed dresses for the daughters. Shiny, new toys for the boys.

This is a measure of success.

Winters at Disney. Summers in the mountains.

Good grades, awards at the end of the year banquet.

A perfectly manicured lawn to match perfectly manicured nails.

This is a measure of success.

I’m not sure when the shift began in me. Somewhere along the way, the two-story house didn’t make me as happy as I thought it would.

My husband’s promotion only meant he was never home.

All the monogrammed ruffles filled the never-ending pile of laundry.

Dust collected quickly on the never-used, glass martini sticks. Still can’t believe I bought them. I don’t like martinis.

Vacations ended too quickly. Time never seemed to be enough. As I cried out “hurry” I glimpsed the strained looks on my daughters’ faces. At some point, I realized their happy smiles were my true measuring stick.

Success came in musical laughter or a relaxing evening on the couch with my husband. It came not in the size of our saving’s account but in the size of our bank of happy memories. True happiness was found in filling that bank, and measuring success by any other avenue seemed like a passing folly.

The big house would fall down, the money would be spent, the clothes outgrown, and the bobbles easily broken. Why measure success in things that tarnish?

Somewhere along the way, I realized it was my middle child’s loving heart that made me proud. She couldn’t pronounce the letter “L,” but she could [brighten] a stranger’s day with her smile.

At some point, I let go of what everyone else thought of me, or how they measured my success. I no longer cared to impress The Joneses, to put on false airs, pose with my good side, or do what looked good over what felt good.

Success wasn’t measured by outward appearances. It was measured by the inside and what poured out.

I began to realize that success was measured by a happy marriage, smiling children, and a thriving family unit.

Success was measured by watching my husband help a stranger, or by an elderly neighbor bragging on my daughters’ kindness.

Success was measured by the photos I looked at later after a really fun day, or by my eldest daughter exclaiming, “this was the best day ever!”

My greatest success was felt when my child thought to pray for answers first, rather than fretting about her problem.

I measured success by listening to my middle child stop us all from eating and proclaim, “let’s not forget to say grace.”

I measured success by watching my children grow closer to Jesus, or by my own victory over anxiety and fear.

I now measured success by my ability to let go of all the things I once thought I must obtain to make me happy, and by being able to rest content in the joy of the life God had for me all along.

Now I measured success in goodnight kisses and bedtime prayers with my girls. I measured it by the adoring look my spouse gave me at the end of the day, and by the feeling of tremendous love I felt for him when I looked back into his deep brown eyes.

I finally realized that success shouldn’t be measured by what we do for a living as much as how we treat people. It shouldn’t be measured by how many possessions we have, but rather by how many hands we hold. It shouldn’t be measured by what all we have, but rather by what we give away. It shouldn’t be measured in dollar signs; it should be measured in friends. It shouldn’t be measured by our achievements, but instead, be measured in how we love.

So, how do we measure success each day? Is it measured by getting to work on time, or is it measured by the patience you gave on the way there? Is it measured by performance, or is it measured by lives touched along the way? Is it measured by bank balances or smiles from our children? Is it measured by fancy cars or musical laughter? Big homes or happy spouses? I’m not saying you can’t have both. You can. But never forfeit one for the other. And never forget that true happiness is the best gauge of all. True joy is measured by having nothing, yet still feeling like you have it all.

So, I suppose I now measure success in units of joy. The joy I’m getting, but also the joy I’m giving away. All the rest is just extra credit.

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Brie Gowen
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Brie Gowen is a 30-something (sliding ever closer to 40-something) wife and mother. When she’s not loving on her hubby, chasing after the toddler or playing princess with her four-year-old, she enjoys cooking, reading and writing down her thoughts to share with others. Brie is also a huge lover of Jesus. She finds immense joy in the peace a relationship with her Savior provides, and she might just tell you about it sometime. She’d love for you to check out her blog at BrieGowen.com.

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