That you’re reading this suggests you desire a life of significance, and I commend you for it. It’s my desire to help you live one.
I think everyone is capable of having one, but too few of us actually will.
And that’s because it requires work; specifically the proper work ethic.
I’ve never been a person who simply wanted to get by, or to blend in. I’ve always wanted to do important work that matters.
As Steve Jobs famously said “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”
I think our life’s work is to figure out what we were put here to do, and to do it.
It’s my belief we have enough time to do anything we want, but not enough to waste. Meaning, we need to get started.
People find meaning in responsibility. Dignity can be found in labor. Satisfaction is derived from helping others and advancing humanity.
Significance is defined as “the quality of being important.”
Work ethic is “the principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward.”
Figuring out what those two things mean to you is the first step.
Finding the connection between them is the next step.
From there, you put them to work in your life.
That’s what I’m going to talk about.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What significance means to you
- Why do you want it?
- Getting clear on your future
- Determining the right fit
- Potential roadblocks
- Developing your work ethic
Let’s get started.
What significance means to you
Significance means different things to different people. What’s important here is that you figure out what it means to you.
You can derive it from a lot of places, including but not limited to your work, hobbies, family, and a meditation practice. It’s up to you to decide what it means and where you get it.
Think about and write down the answers to these three questions:
What is significance to you?
What does significance look like for you?
What does it feel like to you?
Now, we’re going to do a word association exercise.
To help you get closer to what significance means to you, write down how you feel about these words and phrases.
The ones you really connect and resonate with can be clues to what matters most to you.
Don’t overthink your first time through, simply write what comes to mind first, not judging your answers.
- A leader in your family
- A leader in business
- A leader in the community
- An inspiration to others
- A good provider to family
- A respected member of the community
- A hard worker
- An innovator
- A deep thinker
- Lifelong learner
- A professional
- An artist
- A craftsperson
- High income earner
- Highly creative
- Thought leader
Now that you’ve gone through once, go back through and think more deeply about the words and phrases that resonated.
If you’d like to dig deeper into this, you can access our Values Course at no-cost.
Why do you want it?
We’re all familiar with the idea of finding your “why,” or the reason for doing what you do.
Knowing and keeping this top of mind is important because living a life of significance is hard work. There will be times you’ll be tempted to retreat back to your old life. A life which is no doubt comfortable, but lacking in significance.
So, why do you want to be significant?
What impact do you want to have?
There’s a business improvement process known as six sigma that uses “why” as a means of problem solving.
We’re going to use it to dig down to the root of why you want what you want and to get really clear on what your priorities are.
Here’s an example of how it works-
- Why do you want a life of significance? Because I want to have an impact on the world.
- Why do you want to have an impact on the world? Because I want to leave it better than I found it.
- Why do you want to leave it better than you found it? Because it’s my responsibility to advance the human race.
- Why do you want to advance the human race? Because it’s my obligation.
- Why is it your obligation? Because I was given the ability to do it and I want to maximize those God-given skills and talents.
So the second question is in response to the answer to the first question, the third question is in response to the second answer, so on and so forth.
For each of your “whys,” I want you to put it through this framework.
It may not be easy. It’s designed to help you really think about why you want what you want.
Getting clear on your future
How will you have a life of significance?
One of my favorite parts about being human is our ability to create the future we desire. It’s one of our key features that separates us from everything else on Earth.
In each of these six areas, write what your future is going to look like. Think about your immediate as well as long-term future.
Family: What does your family life look like?
Community: How are you active in your community?
Career and money: What does your work and financial situation look like (more on this later)?
Wellbeing: What does your physical, mental and emotional health look like?
Personal development: What do you focus on outside of work? What do you learn for the sake of learning?
Peace of mind: How to your nurture your sense of contentment?
Next, let’s apply the SMART acronym to each goal; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and time based.
For example, if a goal of mine is losing weight, how do we apply the SMART framework?
Is losing weight specific? Yes.
Is it measurable, it can be and needs to be, so let’s say I want to lose 20 pounds.
Is losing 20 pounds attainable for me? Yes, I believe it is.
Is losing 20 pounds relevant to my overall desire to be healthy, yes.
It is time based? I need to give myself a deadline to lose the 20 pounds; could I do that in 3 months? Yes, I believe I could.
So, instead of simply saying “I Want to lose weight.” I’ve given myself three months to lose 20 pounds. I have a lot more clarity around this goal.
So, apply this framework to each of your goals.
If you’d like to dig deeper into this, you can access our Goals Course at no-cost.
Determining the right fit
In the introduction, I talked about how significance is defined as “the quality of being important,” and work ethic is “the principle that hard work is intrinsically virtuous or worthy of reward.”
Now it’s time to make the connection between those two and to help ensure your work is aligned with the life of significance you desire.
The Japanese word Ikigai is defined as “a motivating force; something or someone that gives a person a sense of purpose or a reason for living.”
It’s also developed into a framework for finding the right career.
In the middle is the work you’d most like to be doing, that will bring you significance and satisfaction.
For each area, think about and write down your thoughts:
What you love:
What the world needs:
What you can be paid for:
What you are good at:
As you’re working through this, be patient with yourself. If you’ve never seen this before, it will take time to get your head around it.
Also, if you discover your Ikigai is something completely different from how you’re currently earning a living, I’m not advocating you drop everything and start a new venture. In a perfect world, there would be perfect situations; but we don’t live in a perfect world. If you decide you want to make a change, do so thoughtfully and methodically.
If you’re not sure what your Ikigai is, don’t be discouraged. You may never find that one, perfect thing you’re “supposed” to be doing. The idea is to get as close to it as possible, to work hard at it, to get close to mastery, and to find purpose and significance in it.
You may also find you have a couple of things that meet your desires, and that’s great!
You’ve done a lot of work getting to this point. What could stop you from living your life of significance?
A lot of things.
Fear, procrastination, existing patterns, resistance and uncertainty to name a few.
You’ll need to pay attention to your behaviors and patterns. Are they serving you by getting you closer to the life you want? If not, you’ll need to break them and form new and better ones.
Be mindful of your triggers and responses. How do you handle adversity? If your current coping mechanism is binge watching Netflix, you’re going to need to replace it with something more productive. Perhaps getting outside and taking a walk, or calling a friend you haven’t talked with in a while.
Too many of us are stuck in vicious cycles and negative patterns. Perhaps you’re there now.
Breaking free and creating virtuous cycles is all about paying attention to your behaviors and making corrections as needed.
Developing your worth ethic
At the beginning, I told you I think everyone is capable of having a life of significance, but too few of us actually will.
And that’s because it requires work; specifically the proper work ethic.
We live busy and complicated lives. If we don’t prioritize how we spend our time and attention, someone else will be happy to do so.
To develop self-discipline and the right work ethic, we need to develop a standard operating procedure, or SOP.
A standard operating procedure is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help their people get what needs to get done, completed.
If it’s for an organization, why would an individual have one?
If you have a simple, straightforward and uncomplicated life, you probably don’t need one. Odds are, you have a complex life with a lot of moving parts. The more you can systematize and put structure around the things that need to get done, the better.
When it comes to personal finance, I’ve already talked about how complex it can be. Keeping on top of everything that needs to happen on a monthly basis is important.
- Checklists. One day, perhaps many of the things you need to be successful will be second nature. Until that day, make a checklist for everything that needs doing.
- Calendar. What gets scheduled, gets done. If you don’t put all of your important activities into your calendar, they’ll get bumped by some other “emergency.”
- Automate. The more we can take our hands off the wheel, the better.
- Delegate. If there’s an area you lack in, find someone or something that can support you in your change.
Self-discipline is like a muscle that gets stronger with use, and weaker with neglect.
The more you can automate and systematize your life, the better off you’ll be.
There’s a famous Steve Martin quote that goes “Be so good they can’t ignore you,” and I think this sums up what it takes.
You’re capable and worthy of living a life of significance, but it’s not going to happen on it’s own.
No one is going to give it to you, you need to decide what you want and work hard to get it.
With clarity around what you want, and the right work ethic, the life you want can be yours.
If you’d like some additional help on your journey, you can connect with one of our Certified Coaches for a no-cost conversation.
You can also check out one of our Courses to get you further along your path.
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