There has been a lot written lately about significance – numerous articles and no fewer than a hundred books – some of them valuable, a lot of it misguided and very little that gets it right so I thought I would throw my two cents into the fray.
For the record, Webster says – significance is – the quality of having importance or being regarded as having great meaning. For what it’s worth in my opinion, this doesn’t come close.
There are three basic questions;
What is significance?
How do you define significance? Is it wealth? Power? Fame? Position? Influence? Celebrity status? Success? Achievement? Or – service to others, humility, compassion or something in between?
Over the years in my world travels I have met many people who were rich, influential, famous or powerful, but were they significant? Well, I dues again, it depends on how you choose to define this word or concept.
Many would have us believe that significance is what others think of us, what they have achieved, what we own, what we earn or how many times we are featured on television.
Trust me – there are millions of people who think they are significant and they are idiots, plain and simple. Don’t agree with me? That’s fine – we are all entitled to our opinion but the key element here is do people who believe they are significant deserve our respect, trust or admiration? Some do and some don’t. But ask most of them and they would tell you that their significance deserves nothing but reverence and even worship form the rest of us.
Significance from my perspective is earned and not for who you are but what you do that makes a positive difference in the world even if that world is just your own inner circle or family.
It is achieving for the sole purpose of giving back. It is letting go of ego, arrogance and self-righteousness. It is recognizing that we are here for a very short time and what matters while we are here is the legacy we have created while we are here that is grounded in kindness, compassion, generosity, understanding and spiritual focus.
This doesn’t mean to imply that everyone has to agree with your values, opinions, actions, decisions or premises or that you have to agree with theirs, but that you live according to a higher standard one that is guided or driven by Divine inspiration in some way.
Why do we want or need it?
Everyone wants to matter in some way. The problem is that most people define mattering with some insane principle related to political correctness, approval of others, what they own or what they control. Got news for you – after you die no matter what you had or what you did, unless is was driven by the right motives, principles or beliefs – well, it’s gone, over, finished and after a short period of time you will be forgotten forever.
I have many heroes and mentors who are still remembered hundreds of years after their passing for what they did while they were here. I won’t mention them all but a couple. Keep in mind you may have agreed or disagreed with their life as they lived it (none of us are or will ever be perfect and without mistakes) but their legacy was for one simple purpose – make a positive difference.
In no special order – Og Mandino, Norman Vincent Peale, Mark Twain, Abe Lincoln, Oswald Chambers, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Ted Williams.
What did they all have in common? Their significance in the end was not about them but how they impacted others and their world.
How to we get it or achieve it?
There are a number of actions, values, beliefs that we can work towards to try and achieve significance but I believe there are just three major ones that if we focus on, regardless of what we achieve or accomplish or don’t in the end we will have had our personal degree of significance.
One) Recognizing that we are not on this earth for strictly what we believe are our personal purposes or agendas. The world has been here for billions of years and billions of people have walked this earth for thousands of years. There is more to life than what we do or get or have as one day it will all be gone. But, what remains is how we impacted the lives of those people who crossed our path.
Two) The ability to share our talent, lessons, wisdom and experience in a way that has a positive impact on society whether your neighborhood, your employees, your customers, your family and friends, your church, your community or even total strangers.
Three) The ability to accept and respect others in spite of differences, the willingness to stay true to what you believe and live who you are with integrity.
You can agree or disagree with some or all of the above, that is your right but keep in mind that my role is not to change you or your values or beliefs but to share mine.