"Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it."
Don’t we all have a longing to live a life of significance and to make a contribution in the world? Unfortunately, many people believe significance and making a contribution is not attainable for them. They put conditions on themselves that they must have an amazing idea, be a certain age, have a lot of money, or be powerful or famous to make a real difference in the world.
The good news from author John Maxwell is that none of those things are necessary for an individual to live a life of significance. He states that the only thing a person needs to achieve significance is to be intentional about it. Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters gives the reader a place to start, a guide to taking the first steps, whether hard or easy. John Maxwell helps the reader find their path to a life that matters.
The Big Idea
What Will You Choose?
"No one stumbles upon significance. We have to be intentional about making our lives matter. That calls for action – and not excuses."
In order to start living a life that matters, you have to do more than just observe those who already seem to do so. You need to start doing something to become good at it. None of us start doing something very well; we get good by doing the thing over and over again. So, can you see yourself as one of the best in the world at what you are passionate about?
Remember, focused action is what converts human dreams into significance. Everytime we choose action over rest we develop an increasing level of self-worth, self-respect, and self-confidence. John states that a butterfly cannot go back to being a caterpillar. Similarly, when you start living a life of significance, you get a taste for making a difference and you won’t go back to insignificance.
How do you want people to summarize your life? Now that you know you have a choice, write one sentence you want them to say about you when you are gone.
Steps to Significance
"Self-centeredness is the root of virtually every problem – both personally and globally. And whether we want to admit it or not, it's a problem all of us have."
If you and I want to achieve significance, then we need to become intentional about getting beyond ourselves and start putting other people first. We need to genuinely care about others and help them get what they need and want. Strive to do this not only because you want to help them, but because it’s the way to really make a difference in the world.
John observes that self-centeredness and fulfillment cannot peacefully coexist because they are incompatible. Do you want to transition to a life that matters more and more to the world? To make this transition, we must put other people ahead of ourselves. Significance is always about others, and serving them intentionally. When you can change your thinking from “what am I going to receive?” to “what am I going to give?” your entire life begins to become more significant.
Practical steps to move from self-centeredness toward a life of significance include: developing a greater appreciation for other people, asking to hear other people’s stories, putting yourself in other people’s shoes (empathy), and turn winning into a group activity rather than a solo act. Always keep in mind that true significance comes from using what you have to benefit others.
Do You Relate to Others Like You?
"Life isn't made by what you can accomplish. It's made by what you can accomplish with others."
For our partnerships and alliances with others to be effective, they must be made with like-minded, but more importantly, like-valued people. If you and I are not connecting and partnering with other people who share our values, we have very little hope of making significant progress.
John makes the case that like-valued people have the following characteristics:
- think of others before themselves
- think bigger than themselves
- have a passion that’s contagious
- have complimentary gifts
- connect with others and provide great support
- show a can-do creative spirit about challenges
- are activists, not passive
- are ladder builders, not ladder climbers
Partnerships with others start when we find common ground and common goals. From there we move from the relational to the inspirational. Can you see yourself partnering with other like-minded and like-valued people to make a difference for others? That’s how you achieve a life that matters.
As someone who is in their second half of life, I have become less interested in success and more intrigued about living a life of significance. To live intentionally, as I have been reminded throughout this book, I must look for opportunities that tap into my strengths and add value to others. Like me, once you taste significance, success will never satisfy you again. Will you choose to join me and live a story of significance and make a difference in the world?