Deep down, almost everyone wants to make an impact. However, not everybody does. Sometimes it’s because they live a life of compromise, choosing comfort and security over purpose and transformation. Other times it’s because they didn’t pursue impact intentionally enough. The latter is what we’re going to tackle in this post. Here are 7 principles that will help you lead a meaningful life.
1. Work Towards Your Epitaph.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey writes the following about Habit #2, which he calls “Beginning with the End in Mind”:
“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”
There are people who do this very well in their careers and businesses. Yet these same people don’t always apply this to their lives. A very effective way to do this is to write the epitaph that you want someone to read at your funeral. Describe what you were like to those around you. What traits did exhibit? What did you accomplish? Who did you help? Were you a good person? Why? Don’t hold back in this exercise. Leave it all on the table. You will learn a lot about yourself and what you want.
2. Create a Legacy that Outlives You.
After you do the exercise above, write down the specific accomplishments you mentioned in your epitaph and elaborate on each one. What would the results be? For instance, if you wrote in your epitaph, “He helped end human trafficking,” make sure you write down how. What evidence would one have for saying that? How many people did you help and how specifically did you help them?
Doing this will help you begin to work your way backwards from your end goal. Keep retracing your steps all the way to the present day, and you will know what you need to do now to make an impact with your life. It’s ok if the end goal seems decades away, and it’s ok if there are some gaps. The purpose here is to help you take your north star and make it actionable today. Living every day with the end in mind will help you build a legacy brick-by-brick that will live on after you.
3. Focus on Mastery.
As much as I love external goals and quantifiable results, a person can become overwhelmed and disillusioned when they overemphasize these things. As you push to tangibly make an impact, remember that life is just as much about the person you become as it is about what you accomplish. The path of mastery is learning to enjoy the journey and accept yourself where you are. It’s also about celebrating the victories that are moral or spiritual, even when they aren’t translating to practical outcomes today. They will. Be patient. Just focusing on your contribution today is meaningful and worthy of celebration.
4. Help the Person You Used to Be.
There’s nothing more rewarding than helping someone who’s where you used to be. Half of a meaningful life is about overcoming the obstacles in your way. The other half is helping others do the same thing faster and better so that they can go further than you. So pay special attention to the people you encounter who are struggling with the things you used to. It’s a potential opportunity to make an impact.
5. Become a Mentor
This goes hand-in-hand with the principle above. Part of the path of transformation is to imitate the greatest people you’re aware of. Consider the people you admire and believe that you can do for others what they do for you. Visualize yourself making others feel the same way that your mentors make you feel. Write down the habits that are getting in the way of that vision, and focus on a positive action that would replace that habit and move you closer to embodying your heroes. Incorporating this principle into your lifestyle will ensure continued transformation at an accelerated pace.
6. Steward for centuries, not for rent.
How differently would you treat your money if your goal was to create more wealth than you could ever use yourself? What would happen if you focused on creating an inheritance that could continue to grow long after you’re gone? This is perhaps the ultimate expression of financial success and stewardship. Most Americans are not planning financially beyond next month, and we wonder why so many people are stuck in the tyranny of the urgent. Dare to be different and think bigger.
7. Leave everyone better than you found them.
Making the world a better place happens one person at a time. The truth is, you have no idea how blessing one individual can change their future. Not only that, but you have no idea how many people that person will touch because of your kindness.
One of my favorite examples of this principle is from the book, Les Miserables. The story is about a criminal in 19th century France named Jean Valjean who escapes prison and is taken in by a kindly bishop. Rather than honor the bishop for showing him kindness, Valjean steals most of the man’s silver and sneaks off in the night. While he’s trying to escape, the authorities capture Valjean and bring him back to the bishop to face judgment. However, when they reveal the silver they found in Valjean’s knapsack, the bishop tells them that he gave it to Valjean as a gift. Then after the authorities release Valjean, the bishop blesses him. This profound act of kindness changes Valjean forever. He goes on to become mayor of a small town, a respected business owner, and a spiritual father to the child of a dying prostitute.
The bottom line is this: take no one for granted. Think about how you can bless everyone you meet. You won’t see the end result most of the time, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Meanwhile, you’ll be a lot happier.
You can make an impact, and we can help you.
I started the Journey Principles Institute because I wanted to pay it forward. I used to be homeless and bitter, but there were people who showed me kindness and never gave up on me. My experience convinced me that anyone can change and become a contributor, no matter where they are today.
Are you struggling with the idea of leaving a legacy? Are you waking up every day aching to live a life of purpose? I know the feeling, and JPI can help.
Right now we’re giving away our entire library of E books for free. These are resources my team and I created to get people like you to the next level. Each book contains practical next steps and exercises to get you started on your hero’s journey. So download whichever one most stands out to you, and keep us posted on your progress.