I graduated 13 years ago. You were in kindergarten. Let’s move past that and pretend I’m still close to young enough to have something relevant to say…okay?
Give me just a few minutes and I’ll keep this simple. I promise.
It all comes down to this: Live your life for something that will outlast it.
Let’s face it – you’re 18 years old, feeling pretty invincible. I know. I’ve been there, remember? It may have been 13 years ago, but I remember that feeling. Screw the odds! They’re always in my favor. I can do anything or be anything I want to be. The world is ahead of me, just waiting for me to show up.
(Spoiler alert: It’s not. But don’t let that dampen your day.)
Yes, your whole life is ahead of you. Yes, I still believe you can do anything or be anything you want to be. But here’s the question – will it matter?
I think at our very core, all of us want to live a life of significance. We want our life to count for something. We want to matter.
I heard this quote a few years ago and it quite literally rocked my world,
“My greatest fear is not that I won’t be successful; it’s that I will be successful at something that doesn’t matter.”
Never before (and probably never since) had a quote so perfectly encapsulated my feelings. I wanted my life to matter. I wanted to make a difference. Who doesn’t?
So then here comes the inevitable question, “What is my purpose?” or “What is God’s plan for my life?” or the classic, “Why am I here?”
Trust me, kids. People have been having those mid-life crises for generations. And I’m not here to answer that for you. Sorry.
It’s time to stop looking at life with such a wide angle lens or broad brush. It’s time to start looking at life as it really is: a series of small moments, tiny choices and seemingly insignificant decisions that add up to make your existence and its relative significance (or insignificance).
Life is all about noticing the opportunities to matter in the minutiae of our daily interactions. It is being aware of the people around you. It’s about doing something that matters in those small opportunities – not waiting for the big “find your purpose” moments. Because if you don’t make the most of those small opportunities, those big moments will never come.
If you want to live your life for something that will outlast it, start with people. People matter. It is our relationships with people that ultimately lead to a life of significance. Think back to the people in your own life who have impacted you in the most significant ways. Was it a teacher? A coach? A mentor? Maybe the student who greeted you with a smile when you were nervous on your first day of school?
You don’t have to go into teaching or social work to make a difference in the lives of people. You don’t have to be a pastor or some great humanitarian who opens orphanages in third world countries.
No matter where you end up, every day you will have the chance to interact with people. You may never see that person again. But they were put in your path for a reason.
Aim to be the type of person who matters because he or she made other people feel like they matter. Because they do.
Will you be successful? I hope so. But success is only worthwhile if it matters. Live a life that matters. Take advantage of the small opportunities to let others know that that they matter. Hold the door for someone. Go out of your way to help someone. Send a birthday card – in the mail. The old fashioned way. Have time to listen when someone needs to talk. Give hugs. Ask someone how they’re doing – and really listen to their answer.
Show grace when people don’t deserve it. Give gifts to people when they haven’t earned it. There is an old phrase that says, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” You never know how seemingly insignificant act of kindness can make a difference for someone in the midst of a battle.
Live for your life for something that will outlast it.
Live a life of significance.
Live a life that matters.