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June 5, 1998

The Address of the Flourishing Life

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My entire life, I’ve been captivated by the lives of people who have flourished. As a young man, I read of people such as Lincoln, Calvin, Billy Graham and Mother Teresa, and wondered at their fruitful lives. What made their lives so profound in impact and quality? What did they do that others did not? What did they value and what did they disdain? What formed their core and sustained their hunger?
The more I grew, the more I understood that flourishing wasn’t what I once thought. It’s not just being highly successful in your career. More often than not, flourishing is a whole life lived to the fullest—a focused and authentic life. Or as Fyodor Dostoyevsky said it, “The mystery of human existence lies not just in staying alive but in finding something to live for.”
The ability to flourish is not the product of some second-hand formula. Instead it is almost like a place you go. It’s available to everyone, even though only few venture into its territories. A desire to flourish rumbles in my gut just like it does in yours. “What if,” writes author John Eldredge, “those deep desires in our hearts are telling us the truth, revealing to us the life we were meant to live.”
What if flourishing was really just arriving at a place where I was at peace with myself and with others and my circumstances? What if flourishing was more a state of my heart than a ledger of my feats? What if to flourish meant to live with every ounce of my being? To suck all the marrow out of life, as Thoreau put it?
This book represents the best of what I’ve learned. It’s a collection of lessons taught, wisdom gleaned and truth revealed. It is not, however, a ‘how to’ book, at least not in the traditional sense. There aren’t ‘5 easy steps,’ and there is no simple formula with a guaranteed outcome. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can find it elsewhere, but let me warn you – Life just doesn’t work that way. There is no flourishing template. What works well for one, might be a disaster for another. And, although it eludes may believers for their entire journey, God is not some automated dispenser than we direct with our inputs; we insert our intent or activities and he responds with the suitable outcomes. That is just not how it works.
All I can offer are some principles that I’ve found to be true. It’s up to you figure how those principles can be applied in your life. Before we go any further, though, I would like to spend a couple chapters building a clear image of ‘what flourishing is.’ To do this, let’s turn to one “mentor” who has helped me shape a correct understanding of flourishing. You may have heard of him. His name is Aristotle.

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