Why Is Faith Important? How Belief Helps You Truly Succeed

Why is faith important? What can spirituality do that nothing else can?

Chasing career achievements, wealth, and prestige isn’t completely satisfying. The older you get, the more that’s true. Arthur Brooks advises that, as you age, you should dedicate yourself to life success—in other words, living a well-rounded life full of contentment and love. Faith, he says, is a major part of this.

Keep reading to discover the difference that a belief in something greater can make in your life.

Why Faith Is Important in Life

Why is faith important, especially as you get older? Brooks says faith is crucial to happiness later in life, citing numerous studies suggesting that religious and spiritual people tend to be happier and healthier than their atheist counterparts. He thinks this is because faith and spirituality help to put your life into perspective. They take your focus off yourself and your problems; instead, you start thinking about the nature of the universe, the purpose of life, and your part in making the world a better place for everyone. 

(Shortform note: While there may be a connection between religion and happiness, correlation doesn’t always mean causation. For instance, one group of researchers found that religion only boosts people’s health and happiness in cultures where religion is highly valued—in more secular cultures, such as those found in Scandinavian countries or Japan, those benefits disappear almost entirely. Those researchers concluded that the benefits religious people were finding weren’t from religion itself, but rather from the social connections people experienced while practicing their religion.) 

Brooks adds that religious leaders have known about the path to life success for millennia. As an example, he relates an ancient Hindu teaching that says there are four stages of life, each with a particular goal. At around 50 years old, you enter the third stage of life, called vanaprastha. The literal translation of this stage is “retiring into the forest,” but vanaprastha really means that you begin to leave behind your pursuit of wealth and professional success in favor of developing your spirituality. This is meant to be preparation for the last stage of life called sannyasa, when you fully renounce worldly concerns like wealth and spend the final years of your life pursuing enlightenment. 

(Shortform note: While Brooks says that “retiring into the forest” doesn’t have to be taken literally, the yogi Sadhguru says that leaving your home (at least temporarily) is a crucial part of vanaprastha. Sadhguru explains that the purpose of vanaprastha is to truly, deeply understand that you’re mortal and your time is limited; this understanding, in turn, mentally prepares you to leave behind worldly concerns and embrace spirituality. However, your home gives you an illusion of safety and immortality. Therefore, leaving your home to live in nature for a while helps you to understand that death can come at any time and in any form—for example, in the form of a lightning bolt or a wild animal.) 

However, belief in the divine isn’t the only way to achieve life success. Brooks says that people who reject religion and spirituality can often find meaning in philosophy—it has many of the same benefits, such as pulling your attention away from selfish pursuits, instead encouraging you to seek happiness by living well and making the world better.

Finding Purpose Through Philosophy

Philosophers from many different schools of thought agree with Brooks that connecting with and helping other people is the best way to live a happy and fulfilling life. In The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Robin Sharma offers one possible explanation for why that is: You’re part of the world, not just an isolated individual living in it. Therefore, by improving the world around you, you’re also improving yourself and your own circumstances.

As another example, Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations—one of the definitive texts on Stoic philosophy—says that working for the common good is the only way to live a happy and fulfilling life. Aurelius’s reasoning is that to feel fulfilled, you must have a consistent goal (what Sharma would call your purpose) and spend your life working toward that goal. However, people are naturally inconsistent; your personal desires and goals will change frequently. Therefore, any fulfilling goal must be selfless rather than oriented around your ever-changing personal preferences.
Why Is Faith Important? How Belief Helps You Truly Succeed

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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