A great number of self-improvement gurus speak of wealth. If you turn on the television, surf the internet, go to the book store and look at the best sellers list, a great number focus on financial well-being. There are those who speak of other aspects of self-improvement; however, the majority promote that which will fill the seats: monetary gain. Even the great Napoleon Hill, of Think and Grow Rich fame, spoke of financial wealth even though he invoked religious and spiritual themes. Of course, he was writing after the Great Depression and almost everyone's focus was on finances at the time. But as one of the more popular sayings goes, it is money that makes the world go 'round. And there is nothing wrong with money. According to Zig Ziglar, the great motivational "encourager," "money is not the most important thing in life, but it is reasonably close to oxygen." An adequate amount of money provides for peace of mind, a house, the bills paid and debtors kept at bay; it simply enables one to provide for family-and if need be-friends.

Money is not the root of all evil, only the people who love it above all else. And this is where a problem arises. In the scheme of things, for you, where does money rate in relationship to other things: family, honesty, integrity, sincerity, valor, trust, all which can be lost or compromised if money is the priority.

What one needs to do in order to become financially successful has been covered time and again by many a guru; however, what is interesting to note is that the greatest lessons one can learn from the pursuit of great financial rewards are offshoots of the pursuit or excellence. Because in order to excel, excel in most areas of life, one must make great sacrifices in time, exert great effort, gain focus and purpose, maintain a serious level of persistence, and overcome the self and self-defeating habits through thorough self-examination and discipline. These things are of a much greater reward and of a much greater eternal significance (these principles last and remain with the individual forever; money and material things are fleeting and temporary), for it is here where one comes to understand the true purpose of life.

"It is one of the strange ironies of this strange life [that] those who work the hardest, who subject themselves to the strictest discipline, who give up certain pleasurable things in order to achieve a goal, are the happiest people."--Brutus Hamilton

It is this being of "the happiest people" that truly and significantly enriches the soul. There are many who are rich but find little joy in life. There are many poor and middle class who live their lives this way too. But great joy abounds in this universe of ours. However, in order to find true joy one must tap into certain universal laws and principles. And I'm not talking "I've just been to Disneyland" joy but joy that lasts a lifetime and then some:

"If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody."--Chinese proverb

It is this reaching out to others, this giving of the self that invigorates and enlivens. Time and time and time again stories come out of Hollywood (I use Hollywood because few of our neighbors are being interviewed these days) about first time mothers and fathers and the great joy and purpose therein that they have found. They see for the first time real joy. They see for the first time much greater importance beyond the self. They see for the first time that nothing is more important than a child for whom they would give their lives if need be. Why? Let's examine this truth.

We know that great joy comes from reaching out to help others, but where does the greatest joy reside? Certainly one can find fleeting joys, temporary joys, but where do the long lasting, self-perpetuating joys come from? What is most important to most people. Answer? Family. Spouse. Mother. Father. Son. Daughter. Grandmother. Grandfather. Relations. Consider this point, how long do we grieve for the loss of a car, a job, a favorite piece of clothing or jewelry? Certainly we can experience sadness or depression because of loss here, but do any of them last a lifetime like when we lose a daughter, son, friend, mother, father? Why? Because we lose a bit of ourselves, our humanity, our familia when relations die. It is these lives that give us life. Sustain us. Promote us. Energize us. You can take all the self-help, self-improvement, self-actualization classes you want, but if you lack family, a family that nurtures and encourages, then you are left with little success that matters.

At the foundation of any healthy, successful society is the family.

"The approaching tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family had prompted many governments to reaffirm the critical importance of the family as a central unit of society." (www.un.org 2004)

"The newly published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church dedicates one of its first chapters to the institution of the family, described as "the vital cell of society." (Vatican Compendium on the Importance of the Family www.zenit.org 2004)

It is in the family where one needs to learn important truths and principles that will not only aid in creating a stronger family but those principles will be taken into school halls, business meetings, all gatherings public and private to create a better society. It is where one learns discipline, respect for self and others, cooperation, humor, laughter and play.

"Marriage requires collaboration, commitment and a sense of responsibility; these things equip us to choose and to work together towards a "we, us" or " together" orientation. We must strive to develop a deeper knowledge of the importance of the family and family values in Islam in order to deal with the powerful forces that surround us."

We must set aside a special time each week for our family members to enjoy one another, communicate, plan, and study Islam together. Husbands and wives need to spend time together talking and striving to have a sense of humor. They need to exercise self-control because when either of them gets angry and loses control, the effects can be wounding. Our tempers can get us into big problems." (Kassaimah Muslim Homes: Islamic Family Values in An Anti-Family Society www.missionislam.com 2007)

It is here where one learns of "reaching out" to others. This is not something that is or should be taught by schools, governments, communities, public or private institutions. It is in the family where one learns and earns a strong foundation. It is the responsibility of the parents to teach these principles, and if they don't know of them, they need to do their due diligence and learn of them through family, church or private counseling.

It constantly and consistently amazes me that these principles are not common knowledge. Maybe they do need to be taught in schools to parents and then have the children pass them on to their children and so on. And after this has been done for some time the family can take over with a proper, social, emotional, spiritual education.

Interesting to note that the amount and consistency of love, respect and attention that a child receives before the age of five to a great degree determines that child's mental welfare and stability for the remainder of its life.

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives-mothers and fathers-will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations." (Gordon B. Hinkley "The Family: A Proclamation to the World")

Nothing outside of the family can make up for any excessive abuse or lack of love within.

Author's Bio: 

Jeff has written 100's of essays and articles; over 50 poems; and several books: Now available are his motivational works Black Body Radiation and the Ultraviolet Catastrophe at Amazon.com and To Die at the Age of Man at Lulu.com; Coming soon: Give and Grow Yourself Rich (May, 2008); Education is a Waste of Time, (late 2008); and a children's novella The Search for Adriana (late 2008). Currently, he teaches writing and owns Inner Projection, a self-improvement business.