Do you know the difference between success and significance? I know a lot of people believe they are successful – simply because they have everything they want in life. It’s the value of things that define them. It might be their career, their home, the car they drive, the holidays they take, or even the seat they choose on an aeroplane. There is nothing wrong with the materialistic things in life – you have worked hard for them, you have earned them. You have added value to yourself
elf. In short, with this viewpoint, success can be defined as the achievement of your aims. But what about being significant? What do you offer the world in return? What value do you add? What is your legacy going to be after your life and after your career? I believe significance comes when you add value to others – and you can’t have true success without having true significance. I came to this conclusion while reading a book called Your Road Map for Success by John Maxwell, in which he attempted to define “success” as “knowing your purpose in life, growing to your maximum potential and sowing seeds that benefit others”. Here are a few of my observations about the journey to significance which can be tailored to either your professional career or indeed your personal life: · Success is what happens to you. Significance is what happens through you. · Success is what comes to you. Significance is what you give away to others. It’s these types of statements that make you stop and think about your own life, your own career and the world in which we live. We live in a culture that adores success. Money and “things” are the default setting we use to measure success: the more money you make, the greater your success. The greater your success, the more you are deemed worthy. And then we take it a step further. We start to compare and measure wealth and success with intelligence and talent. If you are rich enough, famous enough, successful enough, you are qualified to have important opinions. You’re worth listening to. Really? There is an alternative. And this alternative is to focus and emphasise your purpose. Instead of money, look towards your meaning. This is called significance. One of the distinctive characteristics of this alternative mindset is that it cuts across all age groups and demographics. It can’t be dismissed as something that only applies to idealistic young people, nor can it be written off as something that only comes to older people after they’ve burned-off the dross of ambition. The majority of our upcoming workforce are millennials. It is these millennials that want purpose and meaning in their work. For them, work isn’t only about making a living, it’s about making a difference and having a life. It’s about being significant. At the other end of the age spectrum, baby boomers are experiencing a new phase of life! As people live longer, live healthier and live more actively, boomers are reimagining what they want in this new phase. The old notion of a passive retirement is giving way to a renewed sense of purpose – of significance. The importance of purpose and meaning isn’t a new idea. What is new is the democratisation of purpose and meaning – the strong belief that each of us can find within ourselves an expression of purpose that connects our lives with the lives of others. In other words, to live good lives of purpose and meaning, we need to find significance, not just success. So, if you aim to be significant and you achieve it then you have ‘successfully’ achieved your aims. You’ve become successfully significant: the purposeful win.