Six Keys to Personal Success

TRUE success is the achievement of the very best way of life, one that results from the application of God’s standards and that harmonizes with his purpose for us. A person who leads such a life, the Bible says, will “become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed.”​Psalm 1:3.

Yes, even though we are imperfect and make mistakes, our life as a whole can be a resounding success! Does that prospect appeal to you? If so, the following six Bible principles can help you to reach that goal, thus providing clear evidence that the teachings contained in the Bible really are wisdom from God.​—James 3:17.

1 Keep Money in Its Place

“The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have . . . stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Note that the issue is not money itself​—which we all need to care for ourselves and our families—​but the love of money. In reality, that love makes money one’s master, or god.

As we saw in the opening article of this series, people who avidly chase after riches as the key to success are, in fact, pursuing a mirage. Besides inviting disappointment, they invite many pains. For example, while ardently pursuing wealth, people often sacrifice relationships with family and friends. Others forgo needed sleep​—if not because of work, then because of anxiety or worry. “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not allow him to sleep,” says Ecclesiastes 5:12.​—Hebrew Names Version.

Money is not just a cruel master but a deceitful one as well. Jesus Christ spoke of “the deceptive power of riches.” (Mark 4:19) In other words, riches promise happiness, but they do not deliver. They just create a craving for more. “The man who loves money can never have enough,” says Ecclesiastes 5:10.​—The New English Bible.

In short, the love of money is self-defeating and ultimately leads to disappointment, frustration, or even crime. (Proverbs 28:20) More closely linked to happiness and success are generosity, a forgiving attitude, moral cleanness, love, and spirituality.

2 Cultivate a Generous Disposition

“There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) While occasional giving can produce moments of happiness, a generous disposition can engender a state of happiness. Of course, generosity can be expressed in many ways. One of the best ways, and often the most appreciated, is giving of oneself.

After reviewing several studies on altruism, happiness, and health, researcher Stephen G. Post concluded that being altruistic and extending help to others are associated with greater longevity, an improved sense of well-being, and better physical and mental health, including a reduction in depression.

Moreover, those who give generously according to their means do not suffer loss because of it. Says Proverbs 11:25: “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” (New International Version) In harmony with those  words, people who are truly generous at heart​—who do not give with a view to repayment—​are appreciated and loved, especially by God.​—Hebrews 13:16.

3 Forgive Freely

“Continue . . . forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” (Colossians 3:13) Nowadays, forgiveness is often thrust aside; people prefer getting even over showing mercy. The result? Insult triggers insult, and violence begets violence.

The harm may not stop there. “In a study of more than 4,600 18- to 30-year-olds,” says a report in The Gazette of Montreal, Canada, researchers “found [that] the more hostile, frustrated and mean-spirited the personality” was, the more unhealthy the person’s lungs were. In fact, some of the harmful effects were even greater than those for a current smoker! Indeed, a forgiving attitude is not just a good social lubricant but also good medicine!

How can you become more forgiving? Start by taking an honest look at yourself. Do you not upset others at times? And do you not appreciate their forgiveness? So why not be generous in extending mercy to others? (Matthew 18:21-35) In this regard it is also important to develop self-control. “Count to ten” or in some other way give yourself time to cool off. And see self-control as a strength. “He that is slow to anger is better than a mighty man,” says Proverbs 16:32. “Better than a mighty man”​—that suggests success, does it not?

4 Comply With God’s Standards

“The commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine.” (Psalm 19:8) To put it simply, God’s standards are good for us​—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Among other things, they shield us from such harmful practices as drug abuse, drunkenness, sexual misconduct, and viewing pornography. (2 Corinthians 7:1; Colossians 3:5) The resulting harm from these may come in the form of crime, poverty, mistrust, family  breakdown, mental and emotional problems, disease, and even untimely death.

On the positive side, those who comply with God’s standards foster wholesome, secure relationships, as well as self-respect and inner peace. At Isaiah 48:17, 18, God says that he is “the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.” And he adds: “O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” Yes, our Creator wants the very best for us. He wants us “to tread in the way” of real success.

5 Show Unselfish Love

“Love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) Can you imagine a life without love? What a hollow, unhappy existence that would be! “If I . . . do not have love [for others], I am nothing. . . . I am not profited at all,” wrote the Christian apostle Paul under divine inspiration.​—1 Corinthians 13:2, 3.

The form of love mentioned here is not the sexual kind, which, of course, has its place. Rather, it is a richer, more lasting love governed by godly principles. * (Matthew 22:37-39) Moreover, it is not passive, in the sense of receiving it, but active, in the sense of showing it. Paul went on to say that this love is also patient and kind. It is not jealous, boastful, or proud. It unselfishly looks out for the welfare of others, and it does not easily take offense but is forgiving. Such love is upbuilding. Moreover, it helps us to be successful in our relationships with others, especially family members.​—1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

For parents, love means showing warm affection to their children and setting clear, Bible-based moral and other behavioral boundaries for them. Children raised in such an environment enjoy a sense of security and family stability, and they feel truly loved and appreciated.​—Ephesians 5:33–6:4; Colossians 3:20.

Jack, a young man in the United States, was reared in a family that applied Bible principles. After leaving home, Jack wrote to his parents. In part, he said: “Something I’ve always tried to do is follow the [Bible] command: ‘Honor your father and your mother . . . and it may go well with you.’ (Deuteronomy 5:16) Things have gone well for me. And now more than ever, I appreciate that it has been a result of your earnest, loving parenting. Thank you for all your hard work and support in raising me.” If you are a parent, how would you feel if you received a letter like that? Would it not make your heart swell?

Principled love also “rejoices with the truth”​—spiritual truth found in the Bible. (1 Corinthians 13:6; John 17:17) To illustrate: A couple who have marital problems decide to read together Jesus’ words found  at Mark 10:9: “What God yoked together [in marriage] let no man put apart.” Now they have to examine their hearts. Do they truly ‘rejoice with Bible truth’? Will they view and treat marriage as sacred, as God does? Are they willing to make the effort to resolve their problems in the spirit of love? If so, they can make their marriage a success, and they will be able to rejoice in the results.

6 Be Conscious of Your Spiritual Need

“Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) Unlike animals, humans have the capacity to appreciate spiritual things. Hence, we ask such questions as, What is the purpose of life? Is there a Creator? What happens to us when we die? What does the future hold?

Worldwide, millions of sincere people have found that the Bible answers those questions. The last question, for example, relates to God’s purpose for mankind. What is that purpose? It is for the earth to be a paradise inhabited forever by people who love both God and his standards. Says Psalm 37:29: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”

Clearly, our Creator wants more for us than temporary success for a mere 70 or 80 years. He wants us to be successful forever! So now is the time for you to learn about your Creator. Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) As you gain that knowledge and apply it in your life, you will discover for yourself that “the blessing of Jehovah . . . is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”​—Proverbs 10:22.


^ par. 22 In nearly all its occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures, or “New Testament,” “love” is a translation of the Greek word a·gaʹpe. A·gaʹpe is a moral love based on deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty, and propriety. A·gaʹpe, however, is not without feeling but can be warm and intense.​—1 Peter 1:22.

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Have a wholesome fear of God. “The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom.”​—Proverbs 9:10.

Choose friends wisely. “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.”​—Proverbs 13:20.

Avoid excesses. “A drunkard and a glutton will come to poverty.”​—Proverbs 23:21.

Do not seek vengeance. “Return evil for evil to no one.”​—Romans 12:17.

Work hard. “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.”​—2 Thessalonians 3:10.

Apply the Golden Rule. “All things . . . that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”​—Matthew 7:12.

Control your tongue. “He that would love life and see good days, let him restrain his tongue from what is bad.”​—1 Peter 3:10.

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Medical doctor and author Dean Ornish writes: “Love and intimacy are at a root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing. If a new drug had the same impact, virtually every doctor in the country would be recommending it for their patients. It would be malpractice not to prescribe it.”

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When war started in his homeland, Milanko, who lives in the Balkans, joined the army. Because of his courageous exploits, he was nicknamed Rambo, after a violent movie hero. In time, though, Milanko became disillusioned with the military because of the corruption and hypocrisy he saw. “That,” he writes, “led to many vices​—alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, and promiscuity. I was heading for the bottom and could not see a way out.”

At that critical time in his life, Milanko began to read the Bible. Later, while visiting a relative, he saw a copy of the Watchtower magazine, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. He liked what he read and soon began to study the Bible with the Witnesses. Bible truth put him on the path to happiness and real success. “It gave me new strength,” he says. “I gave up all my vices, became a new person, and was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. People who knew me before no longer call me Rambo, but Bunny​—my childhood nickname—​because of my now gentle nature.”