How can I impart value to the world?

A big fear of mine is living my entire life without accomplishing anything worthwhile, never doing anything valuable for the people around me. A lot of things I can do feel hollow to me, and I think it’s because they don’t ask anything of me that only I can give. I want to take who I am, and what gifts I have, and use those to create some sort of legacy or positive impact on the world, even if it’s small.

Every time I ask myself questions about what I love doing, what I’m good at, and what I can see myself doing for the rest of my life, I usually come back to some sort of writing. I think that’s what I’m called to do in life, and I’m really happy I know that.

But I’m not sure how exactly to apply that knowledge right now. Yes, I want to write books, but I’m not sure what kind of books I should write. Yes, I enjoy blogging, but I don’t know what kind of blog I can run that is valuable enough for someone to take the time out to read it. What knowledge can I share that someone else hasn’t already said better? Is my life interesting enough to justify asking for someone’s attention, even if only for a few minutes a day?

I really don’t know, and it feels a little overwhelming to think of my small, insignificant self ever making a difference in this world. What can I do that no one else can?

For now, I’m taking the steps that seem best to get me to where I want to go, even if I’m not sure what the particular destination is. Studying English in college and keeping up this blog are two things I know will be beneficial to me as I seek for my mission in life.

I won’t lie, I’ve always felt that being a mother is the most important thing I can ever do with my life and I’ve always known it’s a calling for me. But I don’t know when I’ll be blessed with children and I don’t know how much of my life will be only blessing the family I have, and how much will be using some of my other talents to bless others as well.

I don’t know what my life will actually look like in 10 years, or what my impact in life will be, but I know I can prepare myself to be whoever I need to be in order to make the most of it. I don’t have kids now and I don’t have a popular blog with thousands of followers. I don’t have any books published or even a writing-related career. All I can do, then, is write and develop that skill, and sand off my rough edges while exercising my positive attributes to be a more patient, nurturing, forgiving person for my future children.

I’m grateful I have at least a direction to point myself in. I know so many people my age who have no idea what they want their lives to look like, or what they could do to bless others. They’re just plodding along, not knowing where they’ll end up, hoping the fog will lift and a sign will appear that tells them where to go next. The scary part is, I’m not completely out of the woods yet. I feel that same fog around me quite often, and it’s tempting to give up and simply do whatever seems easiest at any given moment.

But I know each of us has some sort of gift, and a unique ability to make a positive difference. I guess I’ll never be happy as long as I’m ignoring that fact and trying to keep my head down.

2015 Goals: Read to Grow

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My second goal this year is to spend AT LEAST 15 minutes a day reading from books on leadership, personal development, and self-help. This is an important success principle. I’ve gotten to where I am as a result of the level of thinking and the kind of information I plugged into. If I want better results, I have to change my thinking!

The best way to do that is to learn how the successful people think, from the renowned leaders of the past to the great thinkers of the present. Their legacies often include a book or five about the lessons they learned and the techniques they applied to accomplish their purpose in life. Take advantage of that! Learn from their mistakes and apply the principles of success in your life to maximize your potential in every part of your life.

Among my reading list for this year are The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, Resolved: 13 Resolutions for LIFE by Orrin Woodward, and Personality Plus by Florence Littauer.

               

The Magic of Thinking Big is an excellent resource for obtaining and strengthening vision and belief. It’s incredible how scared we become of having dreams, and how conditioned we are to think that risk is inherently bad. So we settle, and shrink our expectations to match whatever reality sees fit to give us. But there is so much power in how we approach life, and if we can teach ourselves to believe in a reality, we’ll be able to move toward that goal with the eyes to see all the doors that are open to us. The book was powerful and life-changing when I read it last year, and it’s time I renew that sense of possibility I gained.

Resolved is a book about developing key character traits and habits to change first your personal life and inner dialogue, and then your public life and influence. It defines what purpose is, and how to apply that knowledge in your life. It’s an influential read to be revisited over and over, as each resolution is conquered and you step up to the next level in your climb to living your purpose.

Personality Plus is an entertaining and informative read that reminds us all that no, he’s not CRAZY, he’s just different. When someone does something that is infuriating and is simply ridiculous, it’s quite possible that it’s only infuriating to you, and it makes perfect sense to others. We all function differently on a fundamental level, and identifying the personalities of others can go a long way toward building stronger relationships and cultivating an attitude of understanding and acceptance. My family is large enough that I get to deal with all the different personalities on a daily basis; I could never figure out why my sister and I hated each other so much but after reading this book and understanding the concept, it drastically improved the relationship. I understand what makes her tick and I know how to pick my battles.

There are so many incredible books to read and study, and if there’s a concept or principle you’d like to study, there’s probably a “manual” for it. Simply reading the words isn’t enough, however; intentional learning and application of the lessons taught will make all the difference.

What’s one characteristic you’d like to develop or strengthen in yourself this year?

2015 Goals: Focus on Friendship

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I’m going to share my goals for this year in a series of posts (I also post them on Instagram). The most important thing to me is becoming a better person and improving myself this year, and specific resolutions are a must to guide my path.

My first goal is to develop more and stronger friendships this year. It’s been so easy for me to let things slide and ignore my friends until I need them (whether for something tangible or simply because I’m in need of a shoulder to lean on), and the people I once considered my closest friends are hardly friends at all anymore.

What I’ve learned is that we’re all happier when we have solid friendships in our lives. They help us create good memories, feel connected in this big world, and lend us strength to weather storms. People are actually so amazing when you get to know them, and they enrich your life to an incredible degree if you let them. So I want to give more meaning to my life and let more people in, to learn what they have to teach me. And I want to learn to serve others, to think of them first, to be an active force for good in their lives.

One book I’ve read on the topic of friendship and people skills (and will be reading over and over again every year) is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a fantastic book with solid, timeless principles that are pretty commonsense, yet shockingly lacking in the average person’s life.

It was a bit of a tough read for me at first, because I struggle with every single thing the book addresses. In some cases I grumbled about how I didn’t want to stop complaining, or how it was too much work to remember everyone’s name. I then realized I had to work first on the desire to change before I could even get started on the actual principles.

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from only having read it once is that the key to great people skills is to stop thinking so much of myself. It’s not about me, it’s about them. For example, if I spend most of my time thinking of things only I would care about, doesn’t it make perfect sense that everyone else is doing the same? Which means that asking someone to talk about himself is a great way to make him feel like he matters to you, instead of feeling unimportant as you natter on about yourself.

So my focus this year is to force my thoughts away from “me, me, me” as much as possible and center them on what I can do for others instead.

I’m going to ask more questions, listen more, and smile as often as possible. I’m going to say hello to strangers and start conversations with people I see around town but don’t know. By the end of the year, I want to know that more people than not were better off for talking to me. And I want to know a lot more names than I do right now. It’s time to take an active interest in the world and the people around us. Let’s make this year a huge step forward, friends. ♥

Q: What’s your best memory from 2014?