The entertainment industry has been shaken recently with the well-publicized deaths of musician/actor David Bowie, Eagles’ founder Glenn Frey, and actor Alan Rickman, who played Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. Each one has had a major impact on popular culture through their individual art forms, but none of them lived past the 70-year mark. By today’s standards, that’s not very old. The death of a high-profile person is a reminder that no one is exempt – there is a day coming for each of us that will be our last, and that makes us think deeply about life. What is important? What difference will I make? What will I be remembered for?
Here are some principles to help you think about how your life can make a difference in this world:
Clarify your values – This is the foundation you will ultimately build your life upon. If you have never put into words the things you believe are worth living for and worth dying for, today can be a good day to begin thinking about what you value most.
Live according to your values – When you have identified what’s most important to you, think about what you do on a day to day basis and evaluate whether your activities line up with what you say you value. If you’re honest, this exercise can have some painful moments because what you do says a lot about what you actually value. For example, if you say that you value your family most, but your daily schedule involves 10 hours at work followed by an evening of “winding down” with your buddies, you’ll see that what you say you value and what you really value aren’t the same. Once you identify the discrepancy, you can begin adjusting your activities to fit your values. You will be amazed at how life can begin to make sense!
When you don’t have all the answers, do the next right thing – There is so much information available today that we should have all the answers, right? The fact remains that life is full of decisions, and no amount of advice will give you all the answers all the time. When you can’t see the big picture of all the possible outcomes of your decisions, consider your values, your practical needs, the people who will be impacted and any other pertinent information, and just do what you believe is right, even if it’s a very small step. A simple list of Pros and Cons can be useful to show what the next right thing may be.
Invest in yourself – If you show up at your 10, 25 or 50 year high school reunion and people say, “You’re exactly the same as you were,” it may be a compliment – or it may not. It’s healthy and appropriate to maintain your fitness and appearance in order to age more gracefully, but if your maturity and behavior hasn’t progressed since high school, it’s time to grow. Read good books, take a class or spend time with people you respect and people who have accomplished things you admire. Ask someone who is successful in an area of interest for you to mentor you. You were born with potential – grow it to maturity!
Invest in others – In the end, what people will remember most about you is how you made them feel and what you helped them achieve. I’ve heard it said that the greatest contribution you make in this world may not be something you do, but someone you raise or invest in. You have heard of many great people – Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan – but I can guarantee that part of their success is owed to people who invested in them. In the end, it doesn’t matter if everybody knows your name; it matters if you made a difference to someone who also made a difference. Be an example to a child. Encourage a new coworker. Help someone who can’t repay you. It all matters more than you know.
Just as entertainers leave their mark on this world, so do you. Be confident in the intrinsic value of the life you have been given. No one’s life is perfect, but if you consistently live according to your values and make the best of the opportunities, abilities and gifts you have, it will make a difference for generations to come.
Live, Work and Relate Well!