What's the difference between pursuing a successful life, or pursuing a life of significance? On the surface you might think these are one and the same. Can you experience one and not the other? Are these two attributes mutually exclusive, or do they indeed go hand in hand?
Everyone desires to create a successful life. I don’t think anyone with a healthy mind spends much time consciously saying, “My goal is to be a complete failure in life”. At least I have not yet met anyone with that point of view. I think you would basically agree with the general statement: we all want to create success in our life. This begs the bigger question –what is success and will it really bring you happiness?
The Successful Life
In our western culture, most people believe that you are successful when you achieve something. The common self-help industry definition suggests you are successful when you are pursuing the achievement of goals that result in financial success, personal power and authority, mastery of knowledge, material possessions and outward status in your community. While there is nothing bad or wrong with these pursuits, in of themselves, these ideals will rarely lead anyone to experience sustained happiness. I know many successful, accomplished people who are just plain miserable, and I’ll bet you do too. You may achieve the symbols of outer success, but they will not provide you with lasting happiness. Like John Lennon says “money can’t buy me love”.
The Significant Life
On the other hand, living a life of significance has its basis in an entirely different set of principles. The formula here is dramatically different than the pursuit of success. When you are pursuing significance, you engage your life in the accomplishment of ideas that deeply matter to you and contribute to the well-being and advancement of others. Your focus is on attributes like, generosity, kindness, love, relationships, value creation and connectedness. A person who is engaged in the pursuit of a Significant Life is always thinking “win/win”, not “I win”. They live their days on the creative plane not the competitive one. The equation here is simple:
Meaning + Contribution = Significant Happiness
To experience lasting fulfillment and satisfaction, you must discover what really matters to you in life, and have what matters to you contribute to the advancement of others. Only then can you expect to experience life with more joy, freedom and abundance. When you get this formula working in your life, the world will shower you with appreciation. Which usually takes its form in the abundance of health, well-being, loving relationships, and last but not least–lots of money! These things are the applause the world bestows upon you for lighting the way for others.
My suggestion is put your focus and attention on the pursuit of significance rather than success. In the end, you’ll be so happy that you did.
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