"Our being responsible requires us to realise our choices are significant. What we do affects who we are and where we will end up; in short our life is flexible", counsels Philip Baker in his book Secrets of super Achievers.
Today, we live in a society in which the landscape is unfamiliar; the situation is confusing, contradictory and unpredictable. It could be in economical sense, social or sometimes political. As individuals, when we are faced with such challenges, we need principles and a compass to guide us. Unfortunately, sometimes we are manipulated by realities of life, lead life without principles and forget our life compasses or sometimes lose them half way in our life endeavours.
This is true and common when we are elevated to positions of power and influence, when financial and other material benefits present themselves to us or manipulate our way out to get them. We lose humility, forget the direction and lose our compass of life.
Acquiring material possessions per se may not be bad, but excessive desire for money and other material benefits make the horizon of life darker and in such circumstances, when we have no life principles and have no compass of our life to guide us, we get lost and life becomes meaningless despite the level of our achievements and material accumulations.
In his book, "Pathway to Purpose", Anthony Gitonga contends that one sure way of living a fulfilled life does not lie in the big chunk of material possessions but rather in defining our purpose on this earth. He maintains that real happiness comes from identifying one's purpose and focusing your energy and passion towards fulfilling your purpose. That when we know our purpose. That is when we start making a difference and the quality of lifestyle we lead improves.
We start setting priorities according to our individual purpose, irrespective of what external forces of compulsion dictates to us. To him, some of the challenges like broken families, high rate of suicide, corruption scandals that our society is faced with today, are as a result of failure by individuals to identify their purpose in life.
We are living under an illusion that life is all above material possessions, high academic qualifications and positions we occupy irrespective of how provided the end justifies the means. Gitonga maintains that as individuals are different, so are their purposes, passion and dreams. But we have been misled by today's competition to acquire more and more that sometimes we do it at the expense of our children, spouses, family and integrity.
He questions the essence of working so hard to build a big house, if you can't build the character of your children. In his book "Imitation is Limitation", John Mason says thus "the question will not be how much you have got, but how much you have given. Not how much have you won, but how much you have saved. It will not be how much have you sacrificed, it will be how much have you loved and served, not how much you were honoured.
In the final analysis, we could say that to lead a happy life, a successful life, we must be people of integrity and to be people of integrity, we need principles. We need ethics, values and a life compass to guide us. Life without principles is likely to be unethical and in this case, achievements will not bring happiness because of regrets and disillusionment.
The first part of the article was published on February 5, 2013.
The writer is an educationist, author and publisher.