The last agenda item of our life should not be “What is the meaning of life?” Or, “How can I make my life count?” Those questions need to asked and answered at the outset of life, not at the conclusion.
While the arena of significance will be different for each person, the characteristics of significance will be the same. Here are four steps to living a significant life.
- Find something that you can give yourself to that is bigger than yourself.
In order for this to happen, our focus must be turned outward instead of inward. Our ultimate goal is to give instead of to get. Our desire is to serve rather than to be served. Too many people spend an entire lifetime focusing only on themselves, on what they can get out of life, rather than what they can give. They think that significance comes from success, by having people serve them rather than they serving others. These people think that significance comes by what one makes. They confuse income with influence.
When we find that “big” something we will give ourselves to it not out of duty, but out of desire. We won’t be in it for the money, but for making an impact. Our desire will not to be served, but to serve. Our hope will not be to tell people what to do, but rather to show people what to do. We will know that the measure of our influence is not in how many people are under us in an organizational chart, but how many people are following our example.
2. Develop the habit of life-long learning.
Those people who make a significant impact on their world never stop learning. They are forever learning. They are teachable. Those who are submissive and humble know there is always something to learn. They keep their attitudes right, their minds open, and their ears attuned to what others can teach them.
People who make a significant impact on their world are smart people. That does not mean that they all have advanced degrees, but they are constantly learning new things and expanding their minds. They are forever students. They listen. They question. They observe. They ponder.
One of the great tragedies of our society is that many people stop studying when they finish school. They become like a book that is unopened and unread. One who will not read is not much better off than one who cannot read. The failure to study and learn results in a stagnant mind. Stagnant minds are lifeless minds, like a stagnant pond—germ-infested, dirty, and a disgrace.
3. Throw your worries away.
Worriers don’t make much of an impact on this world. Why? Because they are so busy fighting imaginary dragons they don’t have time to fight the real ones. And, worry tends to make one focus on oneself. As long as we are focused on ourselves we can’t make much of an impact on the world. To worry is to divide the mind. It is allowing two things to occupy your mind at the same time.
We need to spit out our worries. Give them away. Refuse to allow them to consume us. People who live significant lives are not void of worries. In fact, oftentimes they have more worries and concerns than the person doing little with their life. But those people who are making a difference have learned a little secret. They have learned to throw the weight of their worries away.
4. Take a stand for something honorable.
People who make a significant difference have a deep settled belief. They have taken a stand on something honorable and refuse to be moved. The fact is, unless we stand we cannot withstand. Unless we stand for something we will fall for anything.
Archimedes, the famous Greek mathematician and physicist, said that if he were given three things he could move the earth off its axis. “Give me a standing place out yonder in space, a fulcrum, and a lever long enough and strong enough, and I will move the world!”
A place to stand is what we need. If we are to be a moving force in the world and live a significant life, we must have a place to stand.
When we are willing to give ourselves to something big; and we keep learning; and we don’t dwell on our worries; and we took a stand for what is right, then, we will find significance.
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