In 2011, a New Orleans neighborhood was forever changed by the work of artist, designer, and urban planner Candy Chang. Grieving the loss of someone dear to her, Chang contemplated the meaning of life and what truly mattered. She decided to invite others to join her in reflection, and the result was a living work of art.
Chang transformed an abandoned home into a massive chalkboard, running the entire length and height of one wall. At the top, stenciled in bold letters, were the words “Before I die…” Below that, dozens of spaces with the phrase “Before I die, I want to___________” were gridded across the surface. Chang provided chalk, unsure of what would happen next.
The response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Neighbors and passersby quickly filled in the blanks, inscribing their hopes, dreams, and aspirations on the wall. As visitors from throughout the region began contributing, it became apparent that Chang had tapped into something universal.
Shortly after the installation, word began to spread, and others wanted to bring the movement to their own communities. “Before I die…” walls popped up in cities around the world.
How to Live with Significance
What is it about the “Before I die…” movement that has resonated with so many people? Perhaps it’s the reminder that we all have a limited amount of time in this world, and that how we choose to spend that time is significant. Maybe it’s the sense of urgency that comes with the realization that we might be missing our chance to make a difference. Despite the miraculous efforts of the scientific and medical communities, the death rate is still hovering around 100%.
As I look back on my life, I can’t help but feel like I could have done more – more to make a positive impact on the world, more to make a significant contribution, and more to leave a lasting legacy.
I know I’m not alone in this feeling. We all have the potential to make a difference and, in many cases, even a lasting impact. However, life can get in the way of our best intentions. We get caught up in the day-to-day of life and forget to take the necessary steps to really make a difference.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling of wanting to make an impact and have more influence and significance in the world. It’s a feeling that many of us have—we want to make a difference, to make a mark that will outlast us. The challenge is that often, our dreams of having a greater impact can be hindered by our own doubts and insecurities.
I mean, who am I to think I can make a difference in this world? I’m not Gandhi or Mandela or Martin Luther King Jr. (Thankfully) I have not had to face significant challenges like they had to face and that shaped them as great leaders.
If you Google Todd Skinner, a lot of names will come up, but only one of them is important to me and to my point here. I first met Todd in 2008. He was so passionate about learning and leading and life in general that he always brought out the best in everyone. He was a business coach, a speaker, and a mentor in the community. Todd passed away of a heart attack in September 2013, just 2 short months after his 40th birthday. To this day, we celebrate his life through awards and events as he continues to influence our community through the people he impacted while he was alive, myself included.
If you could impact and influence just one person’s life for the better, someone who could then go on to impact thousands, what price would you pay to be able to do that? It isn’t impossible, and it doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are some simple steps I’ve discovered that can help you make a bigger impact and have more influence and significance in the world.
1. IDENTIFY WHAT YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT.
What are the causes that you care about? What do you feel strongly about? Think about the things that light you up and make you feel alive. Once you’ve identified your passions, you can start to look for ways to make a difference in those areas.
2. TAKE ACTION.
It’s easy to get stuck in the dreaming and planning stages, but nothing will happen unless you actually take the steps to make something happen. Start small and focus on achievable goals so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Develop a plan, and then take the steps to implement it.
3. FIND YOUR PEOPLE.
Seek out mentors, advisors and a community of others like you who can help you on your journey – a community like the Maxwell Leadership Certified Team that I am a member of and have been for more than 12 years. Other people can be invaluable resources when we’re trying to make an impact and have more influence and significance. They can provide us with priceless advice and support, and they can often help open doors to new opportunities.
By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to making an impact and having more influence and significance in the world. Don’t let doubts and insecurities hold you back. Believe in yourself and take the steps to make your dreams a reality.
Whatever the impact you want to make, one thing is clear: when we come together with a common goal, we can create something powerful and beautiful.
About Lorna Weston-Smyth
Lorna Weston-Smyth is a Maxwell Leadership certified coach, trainer, and speaker. She specializes in leadership development and communication, turning around culture and teams for mid-sized organizations.
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