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Progress is What You Decide It Should Be

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A short while ago a dear friend of mine called me from Europe. He owns a small factory there, and is pretty satisfied with the way his life has played out. While he regularly calls to make small talk, he did so this time with a special reason. He had been talking to another dear, mutual friend, and together they concluded that I should visit their country with the purpose of exploring options to migrate. Both my friends felt that I would be able to do fabulous things and experience tremendous growth in the country where they lived. Just when the story started to sound really good to my sense of adventure, my friend made a comment that woke me up from my daze of fascination. He stated that after 10 years of having run stationary, it would be good for me to get into some real action again. I was stunned, to say the least, although I initially almost let the statement slide by. But then I halted my dear friend and asked him what he meant by running stationary. In 10 years I had earned a Master's degree in Business Administration, a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, wrote and co-wrote six books, over 400 articles for popular and scholarly journals, magazines, and online sources worldwide, lectured numerous university courses, gave tens of presentations and organized several conferences and workshops for audiences in several of the United States, engaged in a second doctoral study, and co-founded two non-profit organizations and 4 scholarly journals to which I was the editor in chief and general director. But in an unguarded moment, my friend summarized his opinion about all of this: stationary.

So, what would not have been stationary? Considering the careers of both of my friends who feel that I should migrate, and recollecting the background against which they knew me before my move to the U.S., a non-stationary life consisted of running one or more very high profile businesses, regularly driving a new car, buying one or more houses, and primarily focusing on financial rather than intellectual or spiritual growth. Indeed, in the first 20 years of my working life, I focused on exactly that: gathering as many assets with the intention of retiring early and enjoying life at 40. However, after 19 of those 20 years I realized that merely gathering economical wins was no longer a thrill. So I set out for a far more rewarding life: one with relatively few extrinsic incentives, but with tremendous intrinsic satisfaction. No expensive cars, but lots of elated moments; no impressive mansion, but a tremendous sense of serenity; no glamorous exposure that resulted in a massive bank account, but numerous spirit-lifting works that helped people from all over the world to grow. Less financial luxury but more peace of mind, less selfishness but more connectivity, less limelight but more enlightenment.

Of course one should not entirely avoid financial progress, but financial gain should not become the all-encompassing priority, because the loss of something far more important comes lurking around the corner then: peace of mind and personal gratification. Treading a golden middle path, like Buddha and so many other religious-, management-, and wisdom- teachers have presented us throughout the ages: that is the key to real progress in life. So, while I would still like to visit my friend in his country, and maybe even look into a few options, I will not make any overnight decisions, and explore my feelings and the contributions these or any changes will bring to myself and others before engaging in them. I have learned from this conversation with my precious friend that others may see your life and the progress you make entirely different than you do. But that should not be a problem, because progress is what you decide it to be.

 

Joan Marques is the author of "Joy at Work, Work at Joy: Living and Working Mindfully Every Day" (Personhood Press, 2010), and co-editor of "The Workplace and Spirituality: New Perspectives in Research and Practice" (Skylight Paths, 2009), an (more...)
 

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