Leadership guru John Maxwell says that ‘most people settle into one of three areas: survival, success, or significance.”
He explains that some folks are struggling in life. They may be scrambling just to keep their head above water financially. Other people are doing well. They’re working hard to have a better life. They’ve reached a level of stability in life that the world calls them successful.
However, Maxwell writes, “Many people tie their significance to social position, their title, their net worth or bank balance, the car they drive, their prestigious address, the man or woman on their arm, or some other status symbol. Their mentality is, ‘If I do enough and have enough, even if I am self-centered, it will bring fulfillment.’”
The problem, ”John observes “is that self-centeredness and fulfillment cannot peacefully co-exist. They’re incompatible.”
Living a life of significance is one that understands their purpose in life. It is being others focused. It’s seeking to make a difference. To add value to those around you. It is being and doing something that is meaningful. As Tom Brokaw once quipped, “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”
Speaking to our need for significance, author Harold Kushner expressed it this way. “I believe that it is not dying that people are afraid of. It’s something else. Something more unsettling and more tragic than death frightens us. We’re afraid of never having lived. Of coming to the end of our days with the sense that we were never really alive. That we never figured out what life was for.”
In a very real sense, this was the quest of The Preacher in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. He was searching for meaning in life. What is good? What will satisfy me? And make me happy?
He experienced all that life could offer. Pleasure. Wealth. Wisdom. Success. And yet all of these in themselves were fleeting and transitory. Ultimately, he found that the whole of man was “to fear God and keep His commandments”(Eccl. 12:13).
Jesus pointed us to the basis of true significance when he answered the question, “What is the greatest commandment?”
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
When our lives are right with God and we’re serving Him to the best of our ability we experience joy, peace, and purpose. We find our true significance in Him. And in fulfilling his purpose for our lives. This, of course, involves other people. Our friends, family, fellow-man, and our brethren. Actually, when we focus on making a difference in the lives of others, we discover our own significance.
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For, author Rick Warren wrote, “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” And the late Baseball great Jackie Robinson once observed, “A life isn’t significant except for its impact on other lives.”
Too many in our culture have been duped by the lure of success as an end within itself. Whatever we achieve in life should only be the means to an end–to a greater good. Our purpose rises far beyond personal fulfillment, career advancement, and financial prosperity.
Whatever true significance we may achieve hinges on understanding the greatness of God, the importance of serving others, and that life is not all about me.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman