Most people want to live a success story, and that’s a good thing. Success can bring you money, accomplishment, power and invaluable experiences. But success still falls short. Success alone cannot bring lasting happiness or deep fulfillment. Success, by itself, does not inspire others to remember and share your story long after you are gone.
If you want success, and you want happiness, a legacy, and the certainty that you have made the world better for having lived, then what you want is more than a successful life; it is a life of significance.
What’s the secret to living a story of significance?
Living each day with intentionality.
When you live each day with intentionality, there’s almost no limit to what you can do. You can transform yourself, your family, your community, and your nation. When enough people do that, they can change the world.
When you intentionally use your everyday life to bring about positive change in the lives of others, you begin to live a life that matters.
Intentional living is about living your best story.
Your story still has many blank pages. Write them in with a life well lived.
4 Ways to Start Creating Your Significance Story
If you want to make a difference and have a significance story to tell by the end of your life, I believe I can help. But first, you need to be willing to take an important step forward. And that comes from a change in mindset, from a willingness to start living your story by approaching your life differently.
1. Put Yourself in the Story
No one stumbles upon significance.
We have to be intentional about making our lives matter. That calls for action—not excuses. Most people don’t know this, but it’s easier to go from failure to success than from excuses to success.
In a famous study by Victor and Mildred Goertzel published in a book titled Cradles of Eminence, the home backgrounds of three hundred highly successful people were investigated. These three hundred people had made it to the top. They were men and women who would be recognized as brilliant in their fields. The list included Franklin D. Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Albert Schweitzer, Clara Barton, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and Sigmund Freud. The intensive investigation into their early home lives yielded some surprising findings:
- Three-fourths of them as children were troubled by poverty, a broken home, or difficult parents who were rejecting, over-possessive, or domineering.
- Seventy-four of the eighty-five writers of fiction or drama and sixteen of the twenty poets came from homes where, as children, they saw tense psychological drama played out by their parents.
- Over one-fourth of the sample suffered physical handicaps such as blindness, deafness, or crippled limbs.
Adversity tried to knock these people out of their stories, but they wouldn’t have any of it. Why? They were highly intentional. They had a strong why—a purpose—which drew them forward even if the road wasn’t wide and smooth.
2. Put Significance in Your Story
A well-lived story of significance is built when we focus on adding value to others and making a difference in their lives. When we live for significance, we are telling people around us that it is important to us. Almost everyone wants to live a life of meaning and significance, whether or not they express the desire.
To put significance in our stories, we must do things out of our comfort zone. And we must make changes that we 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.
Your story won’t be perfect. Many things will change. But your heart will sing. It will sing the song of significance. It will sing, “I am making a difference!” And that will give you satisfaction down to the soul level.
Put Your Strengths in Your Story
Recently I had an enlightening lunch with Jim Collins, author of Good to Great. “Jim,” I asked, “What is required to bring about positive life-change to a community?” I knew he had done a lot of research on the subject of transformational movements, and I was very interested to hear his answer.
“There are three questions you need to ask,” Jim replied. “They are:
Can you be the best in the world at what you do?
Are you passionate about what you are doing?
Do you have the resources to change your world?”
Since our conversation that day, I have spent a lot of time thinking about those questions. Here is what I discovered. The first question is about talent. You have skills and abilities that can help others. Can you be the best in the world using them? Maybe, maybe not. Can you be the best you in the world using them? Absolutely! You are unique, and have a unique chance to make a difference only you can make—if you’re willing to get into your story.
The second question is about heart. Significance begins in the heart when we desire to make a difference. We see a need. We feel a hurt. We want to help. We act on it. Passion is the soul of significance. It’s the fuel. It’s the core.
The third question is about tools. No doubt you already have many resources at your disposal. My desire is that my book Intentional Living will be another one. It will show you the way so that you can become highly intentional and live a life that matters according to your heart and values.
4. Stop Trying and Start 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.
An attitude of doing also helps us to become who we were meant to be. It is this doing attitude that often leads to the things we were meant to do. While trying is filled with good intentions, doing is the result of intentional living.
As you read this article, you may be thinking, I’m not sure if I’m ready to make a commitment to creating such a significance story. It’s an understandable reservation. But what if it is the one thing holding you back from a remarkable life?
Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, identifies this reluctance. He calls it resistance. He writes, “There is a force resisting the beautiful things in the world, and too many of us are giving in.”
Choosing to live each day with intentionality and purpose helps us break through that resisting force, and the world needs that.
It needs for us to live our stories and contribute to the greater story that’s happening around us.
What story will you create?
~ Adapted from John C. Maxwell’s new book Intentional Living
I am thrilled to be able to publish the above from my mentor, John C. Maxwell. If you’d like to find out more about Intentional Living, click below to order the book and participate in a 30-Day Journey to Transformational Living.