Put Yourself in the Story
No one stumbles upon significance. We have to be intentional about making our lives matter. That calls for action—and not excuses. Most people don’t know this, but it’s easier to go from failure to success than from excuses to success. Look at the lives of people who have achieved significance, and you can hear them calling you to put yourself into your story. Perhaps they didn’t use those exact words, but if you look at what they’ve said, you can sense the call to action:
“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.” —Søren Kierkegaard
“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” —T. S. Eliot
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” —Mahatma Gandhi
Put Your Purpose in Your Story
A well-written story is built using elements that people think are important. When you live your purpose, you are telling people around you that significance is important to you. Almost everyone wants to live a life of meaning and significance, whether or not they express the desire.
To pursue your purpose, you must do things out of your comfort zone. And you must make changes that you may find difficult. We often avoid trying to make those changes. But know this: though not everything that we face can be changed, nothing can be changed until we face it.
To pursue your purpose, you must also take action. Being passive may feel safe. If you do nothing, nothing can go wrong. But while inaction cannot fail, it cannot succeed either. We can wait, and hope, and wish, but if we do, we miss the stories our lives could be.
“I’ll try my best.” This is a statement most of us have made at one time or another. It’s a way of saying, “I’ll work at having the right attitude and I’ll work at the task, but I won’t take responsibility for the outcome.” But is trying to do your best enough for a life of significance? Can we move from where we are to where we want to be just by trying?
Trying alone does not communicate true commitment. It’s halfhearted. It is not a pledge to do what’s necessary to achieve a goal. It’s another way of saying, “I’ll make an effort.” That’s not many steps away from, “I’ll go through the motions.” Trying rarely achieves anything significant.
If an attitude of trying is not enough, then what is? An attitude of doing! There is enormous magic in the tiny word do. When we tell ourselves, “I’ll do it,” we unleash tremendous power. That act forges in us a chain of personal responsibility that ups our game: a desire to excel plus a sense of duty plus complete aliveness plus total dedication to getting done what has to be done. That equals commitment.
Find Your Why to Find Your Way
If you want to make a difference and live a life of significance, you find your why. You need to tap into your purpose. I’m certain everybody has one. Your why is the life’s blood of your ability to achieve significance.
If you know your why and focus on going there with fierce determination, you can make sense of everything on your journey because you see it through the lens of why. Once you find your why, you will be able to find your way. How do those things differ? Why is your purpose. Way is your path. When you find your why, your path automatically has purpose. And life becomes much more meaningful and complete because you have context to understand the reason you’re on the journey in the first place.
Embrace Intentional Living
Poet Samuel Johnson is credited with saying, “Hell is paved with good intentions.” Why would he say such a thing? Isn’t it a positive thing to want to do good, to possess a desire to help others? The answer is yes. Having a heart to help people and add value to them makes you a better person. But if you don’t act on it in an intentional way, it won’t make a difference.
Someday I’m going to die. You are too. What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? We’ve all heard the saying, “All’s well that ends well,” but nothing can end well unless it starts well. If you want a life that matters, you don’t need to change everything in your life. The shift to make is not huge—but to live a life that matters, it is essential. It is the shift from good intentions to intentional living. That small tweak in your mindset will bring massive significant dividends.
Are you ready to take that step? It’s simpler than you might imagine. You just need to align your thinking and your actions.
Be Willing to Start Small
Many people look at all that’s wrong in the world and mistakenly believe that they cannot make a difference. The challenges loom large, and they feel small. And they think they must do big things to have a life that matters. Or they think they have to reach a certain place in life from which to do something significant.
Does that seed of doubt exist in you? Have you ever found yourself thinking or saying, “I will be able to make a difference only when… I come up with a really big idea, I get to a certain age, I make enough money, I reach a specific milestone in my career, I’m famous, or I retire”?
None of these things is necessary before you can start to achieve significance. You may not realize it, but those hesitations are really nothing more than excuses. The only thing you need to achieve significance is to be intentional about starting—no matter where you are, who you are, or what you have. Do you believe that? You can’t make an impact sitting still.
Live with a Sense of Anticipation
anticipation is a wonderfully proactive and intentional word for seeking out significance. People with anticipation plan to be significant. They expect to fulfill their purpose and live a life that matters every day. They prepare to do significant acts. They position themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially to make a difference in the lives of others. Their sense of anticipation for significance draws them forward.
When you live with intentionality, you know and understand that every day is your time to make a difference. It’s not someday, one day, or maybe tomorrow. It’s today. You will have the time to make a difference if you want to, so it’s about living with the understanding that you can and then taking action.
Whether you know it or not, your days are numbered, just as mine are. But more important, on any given day, when you have a chance to add value to others and perform an act of significance, you may never get that chance again. The moment can pass, and most of the time you don’t get that moment back. The opportunity is gone, and the person who could have been helped has gone on his way. That’s why you need to seize it.
Sadly, too many people have a scarcity mindset and lack positive anticipation. As a result, they never open the first door. Unopened doors reinforce scarcity thinking and scarcity living. Others do open that first door, but when it doesn’t offer what they expected, they become disappointed and abandon the pursuit. They give up.
Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let the gap between expectation and reality disappoint you. Don’t let it kill your sense of anticipation. Keep searching for doors and opening them. And remember that with each open door, your anticipation will increase and so will abundance.