Significance and Generosity

Do you remember when you bought your first car? For me it was such a great experience that I can remember every detail. I bought the used car from my good friend Mark.  It was a 1970 canary yellow Chevy Malibu with a vinyl black top. I especially remember feeling that I had "made it." I was now independent. I could go wherever and whenever I wanted. In my mind, I had achieved success.  But had I really achieved success?

“Significance, on the other hand, comes when you add value to others which allows the impact of your success to live on. “

Business consultant, author, and leadership coach, John Maxwell describes successful people as persons who believe they are successful because they have everything they want.  But in reality they have only added value to themselves.

Maxwell adds more to his definition of success saying that you cannot have true success without significance.  We live in an age when only a rare minority of individuals desires to spend their lives in pursuit of objectives which are bigger than themselves.  In our age, for most people, when they die it will be as though they never lived.  Significance, on the other hand, comes when you add value to others which allows the impact of your success to live on. 

Reflecting on this concept of adding value to other peoples’ lives, I recall my feelings of great satisfaction after participating in activities like helping send a student to college; renovating an urban community park; or supporting the rescue and care of orphan children. Those feelings of significance were much different and deeper than the feelings I had when I bought my first car. They were feelings of purpose and meaning.

Through the years working in philanthropy, I have observed many selfless, sacrificial donors who did whatever they could to assist the mission of charitable organizations in powerful ways.  The desire to achieve significance by adding value to others’ lives may be why many successful people, upon retirement, often serve in various ways in the nonprofit sector giving of their time, talents, and resources.   Some retirees begin new careers working for nonprofit organizations while others devote significant hours as governing board members and key volunteers. 

This craving to create significance seems most compatible with generosity.  Philanthropic, generous people desire to promote the welfare of others enabling them to create significance by adding value to other peoples’ lives through their generosity. They create a lasting legacy that will be a meaningful remembrance of their lives on earth.

Have you considered ways that you can add value to the lives of others?  Have you thought about sharing your know-how, experiences, and resources making someone’s life better today and into the future?  Have you considered that success only becomes significant when it adds value to other peoples’ lives? 

In my experience, once you gain a sense of significance, you will know that your life has counted for something.  It will be far more satisfying than the experience of buying that first car or having everything you want. 

 As a result of your generosity, you may just realize true success.  

For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the highly applauded book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.”    Click here to place your order.