Success vs. Significance
Success is typically inward focused, working in your life. When you are no longer alive, your personal success ends—at least, we know that on the earth, it ends.
Significance is focused outward and is about working on your life and helping others. When you are no longer alive, the result of what you did can continue to make an impact. How? Through those you lived for and those whose lives you contributed to. Your results live on through others.
What will you leave behind? In the end, will others benefit from the life you lived?
You can write books and leave your life experiences and the wisdom gained for others to learn and grow from and change in their lives. You can leave what’s left of your money as an inheritance to your family members, but you know it will likely be quickly consumed and short-lived. It might be better to leave money in a private foundation or trust that pays out its earnings in perpetuity to charities you care about.
The memory of you can be a legacy, if you tried to live your life as a good example. By the example you became, you can leave a legacy in your children, your family, and others, one that will go from their lives into others’ lives, including their children’s children and beyond.
When you think about a person whose significance carries on, although they might be long dead, who comes to mind? For me, it’s people in the history of our great country, such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and many other major figures.
In the business world, it is those that have made an impact on my life in some way, such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Thomas Watson Jr., Steve Jobs, and many others.
Then there are the people who influenced millions with their words, whether spoken or in books. People like Paul of Tarsus, Saint Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Ed Cole, and others who wrote books that were especially meaningful to me—Jim Rohn, Robert Fritz, John Maxwell, Michael Gerber, and many, many others.
Last, but certainly not least, are those who influenced my personal life, such as two of my old bosses, Alan Durant and Bill Brown; two of my pastors, Nathan Ridgeway and Aubrey Shines; and my wife Jane and Aunt Alice. All of these people have made a lasting impact on my life and are a significant factor in the legacy I create.
At the end of life, it’s not the success you’ve enjoyed, or the fact that you saw more than others, or that you smiled more and were happy. What is far more important is what resulted from the things you said and did.
It will be important that your life had meaning, and purpose, and that you impacted others. In other words, you led a life of significance.
I believe that, deep in each of our hearts, almost everyone wants the same thing—to leave their footprint on this earth. We all want to affect other people’s lives in a positive way, and to leave a legacy that lives on, continuing to make its mark long after we’re gone.
You might say, but I’m not Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Carnegie! How can my simple life be significant to the world?
Let’s realize a truth about life. Some time ago, I heard it said that “all change happens in relationship.” So far, I have found zero exceptions to this statement.
Much of my writing is about change. Change for good. Change for creating a new and different life. And as I always emphasize, life and relationship are synonymous.
I love to write about intentionally creating our lives to better the world around us. I enjoy helping others find ways to live a more fulfilling life, becoming more of who they are capable of becoming, and touching others in a way that lives beyond them.
Face it: One day, you and I will no longer be here. What would you like to be said about you after you’re gone? “Who was he? Never heard of him.” Or would you rather that it is said: “Yes, s/he affected other people’s lives in a good way. Their life truly mattered. I would like to become like him/her. S/he lived a life that made a difference.”
If you take nothing else away from this article, I hope you will decide to do this: work on you and work on your life. Don’t just continue working in it. Your life is who you are and what comes out of your being. That’s what determines the course of your life.
Always work on who you are becoming. Don’t just make quick and simple choices in life. Instead, use the gifts you’ve been given to be more thoughtful, and then do something. Act on your choices in a creative way.
Begin now. Find a way. Turn your life into one of significance. Develop a vision of what you want the outcome of your life to be. You have the ability in you to create practically anything you want!
I challenge you to become all you can be. Become more for your family and friends. Live a life of significance and be fulfilled, leaving a legacy behind of the exceptional human being you are and grew to become. Start now!
Adapted from the book Uncommon Sense by Bill Abbate www.billabbate.com