In life, it is easy to be selfish. We go about our days, mostly thinking of ourselves.
For many of us, marriage helps cure this ailment, but we are generally in the mode of “it’s all about me.” Unfortunately, the world is very willing to support us in this effort. Madison Avenue extols the virtues of consumerism, both in our malls and online. “Buy this and you will be happy,” they say.
This ethos of self-indulgence fits easily into our personal and professional lives. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can make small and big choices to put others first. Before we explore some of those choices, some background might be helpful.
Last week, I hosted an event called Leadercast. We gathered business leaders from Southern New Hampshire and Northern Massachusetts to engage in viewing a simulcast of the live event being held in Atlanta. Every year, they gather topic business and life speakers around a particular topic. This year, the main theme was PURPOSE.
During one particularly poignant session, author and speaker Daniel Pink touched upon the idea of there being two kinds of purpose:
- Purpose with a capital ‘P’ – This kind of purpose is BIG. World changing or lives changing BIG. Like Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves. Like Mother Theresa working in Calcutta. Like John F. Kennedy getting us to the moon. Like Rosa Parks not giving up her seat on the bus.
- purpose with a lower case ‘p’ – This is equally important. This is the concept of making a contribution. You probably can’t have BIG purpose everyday, so this kind of purpose is essentially to living a fulfilling life.
In the photos above, you’ll see my most recent opportunity to do some “BIG P” work. Earlier this year, I joined my daughter and her classmates for a trip to Guatemala. While we were there, we had the opportunity to do some life changing work:
- Building a home for a family who has never had their own home
- Feeding children breakfast before school when they usually go without
- Providing water filters for many families who lack access to clean water
- Assembling wheel chairs for children who’ve never had one before
Obviously, this work radically improved the lives of those we serviced. However, it is likely that this work probably could have been done more efficiently by a group of trained locals, as opposed to flying an untrained group of teens & leaders down to Guatemala. So why us?
The truth is most of us need to get our of our comfort zones, even if it’s only for a week, to be reminded of how blessed we are and how much we have. Many of the kids on the trip had their eyes opened to what real need looks and feels like. Some will never again confuse the two words “want” and “need,” because they now actually know the difference. And it give us a sense of our “BIG P” Purpose.
So, when we get caught up in the day-to-day rush of the “developed world” life, we can reflect on the impact our choices have…for ourselves and others. And through that self-reflection, we are also better able to see opportunities for engaging in our “little p” purpose. Questions like:
- how can I serve others today, contrary to being self-serving?
- what can I do without, instead of buying something to feel good?
- what credit can I give to others today, rather than keeping it?
- how can I clamp down my type-A personality and exercise some patience?
- what gratitude can I express today, when I usually complain?
- put in a full day of work, instead of getting sucked into social media/sports/shopping/etc?
- what can I do to help my spouse, as opposed expectations of their help?
And that, friends, it what most of life is about. Every day may not be a mission trip or a moon shot. But you can still find ways to infuse purpose into your day. Take the time to look for opportunities today.
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