I've maintained for years that you can be a totally contented person without ever being married. I know many happy singles and, unfortunately, I know too many miserable marrieds. Happiness and marital status are, it seems to me, totally independent.
It's a deep inner sense of contentment that most of us want more than anything else in life, and this kind of contentment is far more the result of our "soul" health than anything having to do with our marital status.
And while I talk about finding your "soul mate," I am convinced that the health of your soul has more to do with the relationship you currently have with yourself. So, how is your soul? How are you enjoying being you? How are you doing down at the center of yourself?
I want to share five "secrets" for maximizing the quality of your soul life. These proceed from the most concrete to the most theoretical.
First, to be contented at the center of your soul, you need a good night's sleep . I've been grumpy lately. It finally occurred to me only yesterday that I'm sleep deprived.
Archibald Hart, in his book Adrenaline and Stress , says that you need to get nine hours of rest every night. I don't even come close, and I'm convinced that my lack of sleep has contributed generously to my grumpiness. I really worked to make my sleep better last night. I ate a light dinner, read "happy" material before I dozed off, and concentrated on relaxing my body. I slept significantly better, and this has been my best day in weeks.
Second, you need to surround yourself with a stable of close friends . A close friend plays four main roles in your life: they comfort you when your life is sluggish, frustrating or painful; they listen and help you find your way when life is confusing; they hold you accountable when you are struggling to maintain control of your impulses; and they celebrate and laugh with you all the time.
Show me a person with three to five close friends of the same sex and one or two of the opposite sex and I will show you a person who is indeed well off in the social area.
Third, you need to enjoy your work . I guess I'd have to say that I don't know anybody who doesn't like what they do every day and yet they are genuinely content. Pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Community Church in Mission Viejo, California has just published a brilliant new book, The Purpose Driven Life . If you read his book you will be well on your way to finding your place in the work world-and in life.
Dr. David Hubbard, the long time President of Fuller Theological Seminary, used to say that your calling becomes clear with your answers to three questions: What are you really good at, what do you thoroughly enjoy doing, and what is it that you do that others tell you positively impacts their lives? Bottom line: you need to really enjoy your work to be a contented person.
Fourth, you need to be clear about your strategy for feeling really good about yourself . I determined a long time ago that all of us are fundamentally driven by an intense desire to feel consistently good about ourselves. At a young age, we adopt one or more strategies for reaching this goal. Some of us become pleasers and some of us become achievers. There are scores of these strategies. But there's only one correct one.
Until you realize that your worth and value were maximized and made permanent at the moment of your conception, you will search in vain for the right strategy. It is this good news about our starting point that is at the center of the New Testament. Get in a right relationship with God and your earthbound strategies for feeling good about yourself will become superfluous. Your movement to the contented life will be grounded in the hard rock of biblical faith.
Finally, get peaceful about your death . It may well be true that our fear of death is our greatest fear of all. We may not even be conscious of how much we are harassed by it. I venture to say that most people who are content have made friends with the fact of their death, and most people who experience low levels of contentment have failed to look squarely at this inevitable event in their lives.
Here's the question: Are you psychologically clear that you will die, and do you have a faith plan to deal with it? If indeed I am going to die, I want to be so woven into the One who is bigger than death that I can be certain of the continuity of my own identity.
Get these five categories under control and I guarantee that whether you are single or married, young or old, feeble or strong, your contentment level will be more than you ever dreamed it could be.
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