Spirituality and material success are often framed as oppositional concepts, and it is widely taught that an individual must choose to pursue one or the other because of the assumption that the two don’t mix. That incompatibility is, however, an illusion, because both things are perfectly capable of helping each other.
An individual who has plenty of material success can, for example, afford to take time off work to devote himself to spiritual development – perhaps by spending a few weeks or months on a meditation retreat. Or they can choose to use their wealth and success to help further their spiritual values in other ways. Money cannot buy happiness, but it can feed the hungry, provide medicine for the sick and buy time to spend on one’s spiritual interests, so it is not an enemy of spirituality by any means.
In the same way that a measure of material success can support your spiritual activities, so your spiritual development can help you to achieve greater levels of material success. All you have to do is live in accordance with several important spiritual principles, and success in your career and finances will follow as a natural consequence. The principles I refer to have been taught for thousands of years, but are often overlooked in the modern world, and so I present them to you now in order that you can begin applying them to your life and start reaping the rewards.
#1 – Be Industrious
The first principle concerns being industrious. In short, material success tends to go to those who spend their time wisely, which means working towards the achievement of their goals, rather than indulging in excessive recreation. Consider these words from the book of Proverbs in the Bible, which were supposedly written by King Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived:
‘Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways, and be wise; which having no chief, overseer, or ruler, provides her bread in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.
‘How long will you sleep, sluggard? When will you arise out of your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so your poverty will come as a robber, and your scarcity as an armed man.’ – Proverbs 6:6-11
This principle of being industrious rather than lazy may not sound very sexy, but it is undeniably practical. Of course, one must exercise wisdom and give the mind and body the rest that they need, but you should not pamper them excessively.
Actually think about the ants that you see as you walk around a garden. Their natural state is one of busyness, and if you were to see an ant which isn’t busy doing something, you would either think it sick or dead. This principle encourages you to learn from that example, and to adopt the same work ethic in your own life.
#2 – Give Value
Being industrious is important, but you also need to channel your efforts in the right direction if you want to prosper and flourish. The principle of giving and receiving comes into play here, and you may recall the oft-quoted words of Jesus on this matter:
‘Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you.’ – Luke 6:38
There are a couple of points worth noting here. The first is that giving precedes receiving, and the second is that the quality of what you receive will be determined by the quality of your giving. It therefore stands to reason that if you want to receive something of genuine value, you will need to give something of genuine value first.
This being the case, when you are being industrious your focus should be on providing the best possible product or service that you can. If you are in business for yourself, or you are employed by someone else, aim to deliver as much value as possible. Give whatever task you face your maximum effort, and take pride in delivering quality in every respect.
The same principle applies to those who do not have a business or a position of employment, but in that case you must work on creating a product or service that will prove valuable to others. By focusing on creating value, and offering that value to other people and organisations, you will fulfil the ‘giving’ part of this spiritual principle, and open the way to receive in kind.
#3 – Consider the Seasons
When you focus on working hard to give value to others, you will begin to enjoy a greater level of material success in your life. However, your work is not yet done. It is now important to consider the seasonal nature of life, and to make the most of whatever season you happen to be in at any given time.
‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…’ – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
Applying this principle means being mindful of the fact that change is a natural part of life, and preparing for that change in advance. Spring is a time of working hard to create value, summer is a time of growing what you have previously created, autumn is a time of reaping rewards from your growth, and winter is a time of rest and recuperation.
Knowing the seasons makes it easy to know where you are right now and what you should be focusing on next. If you are currently struggling with material success then you are probably experiencing winter, and you will get to spring as soon as you start creating new values. If you are creating values then you are in spring, and should next focus on growing by offering those values to other people. If you have done that, you will soon be reaping the rewards in autumn, but you will need to remember that winter will follow at some point, and it will then be time to take some rest and make plans for the creation of new values.
Adopting this seasonal attitude to matters of material success will help you to keep all things in perspective, and to avoid making the common mistake of thinking that things will always be as good or as bad as they currently appear. Remember, change is inevitable, so embrace that reality and prepare for it accordingly.
#4 – Create More than You Consume
The fourth principle that I want to share with you today requires you to create more than you consume. In other words, make an effort to ensure that you are consistently creating more value than you enjoy as a consumer.
Some people block their own material success simply because they create little and consume a great deal. Those are the individuals who fill their days with activities that consist only of consuming values that have been created by others, such as watching television, reading fiction, playing video games, going to the cinema, eating out in restaurants, socialising, and so on.
Those who enjoy the most material success in life don’t live that way. Instead, they tend to spend their time creating values, and consuming only what is necessary for their genuine wellbeing.
This is why far more material success is experienced by those who habitually write books, make movies, compose music and otherwise create valuable products and services, then those who simply read novels, watch movies, listen to music and buy various products and services.
Examine the ratio of creativity to consumption in your own life, take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that you consistently create more than you consume, and the amount of material success that you enjoy will begin to expand exponentially.
#5 – Demonstrate Your Spirituality
Last, but by no means least, you should strive to demonstrate your spirituality, not by preaching to anyone, but by setting an example of how a spiritually developed human being should operate in day to day life. This means being honest at all times, only making promises that you intend to keep, honouring your commitments, avoiding gossip and treating everyone you meet and interact with in the same way that you yourself would like to be treated.
One useful way of remembering to conduct yourself properly, which is taken from the Buddhist tradition, is to view every man as your father, brother or son, and every woman as your mother, sister or daughter. Would you be dishonest to such relatives, or deceive and betray them? Of course not, so you should not do those things to anyone. This is a very basic spiritual principle, which I expect that most of you will already be applying, but it is nevertheless worth stating here.
Spread the Word
The five spiritual keys presented here can help anyone to enjoy a greater level of material success in their lives. If you have found this post useful then please spread the word by sharing a link with those who you feel might benefit from it. The buttons below will enable you to share the post directly by email and to social media sites with a minimum of fuss, so feel free to use those and then watch out for next week’s post, which will discuss how practical spirituality can help you to improve your relationships.