Influence is earned.
Significance is cultivated.
Neither happen overnight. They take time. Mental attention. Investment in the lives of others.
You benefit, but not in the way you may think.
Tony Dungy calls it being “uncommon”. Finding true significance in a culture where success is measured in the accumulation of things.
In his #1 New York Times bestselling book “Uncommon”, former NFL coach and Super Bowl champ Coach Dungy describes a life where significance is measured by your investment in the lives of others.
No matter where you are in your life’s journey, you can begin today to be very intentional about leaving a trail of positive memories in the lives of those around you. – Tony Dungy
Living a life of significance is not just about who you are, but also a reflection of your investment in others.
The late Nelson Mandela put it this way:
What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead. – Nelson Mandela
Research shows that mailing a handwritten note carries with it a significance unmatched by electronic forms of communication.
Being significant isn’t hard. But it does take work. Effort. Intentionality.
Keep scrolling for five ways to take notice and start building uncommon significance today.
You’ll start seeing things differently. You’ll see abundant possibilities to speak into someone’s life through a handwritten note.
And along the way, you’ll discover newfound significance for yourself.
1. Notice what no one else sees, and praise it
It’s easy to take someone for granted. We all do it.
Here’s what may be happening:
In her New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin discusses what happens in the minds of others when we routinely do good work. When we become good enough to no longer be noticed.
Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but sincere form of praise. Ironically, the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted. – The Happiness Project
Whether at home, work, school or in our communities we become accustomed to others doing the work. The work they are paid to do. What they volunteered to do. What’s expected of them.
But, it’s simple to turn an unnoticed task into a moment of significance. To show you care. To make them instantly happier.
Pay attention to what no one else notices anymore. That part of their job or routine that they always do. Without complaining.
Turn what no one notices into an opportunity for handwritten praise.
2. Slow down, be present in the moment
We’re all busy. Too busy, really.
A research study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies analyzed self-reported use of time. The results revealed a growing trend in American culture.
83% of participants showed signs of being so distracted by the hectic details of daily life that they failed to appreciate the really important things in life.
Slow down. Just for a minute. Be present in that moment.
Experience what you are doing. Beyond that, make a connection with another person. Help break the cycle of busyness for someone else.
If we would just slow down, happiness would catch up to us. – Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Pay attention. Really connect.
You are presented with moments everyday worthy of a handwritten note. An encouragement. A sympathy. A “thank you”. A guiding hand from experience.
Don’t miss it.
3. Pick someone, invest
Great leaders understand it.
To achieve greatness, it helps to have a great guide.
Someone who’s been there. Done that. Understands what you’re going through. A person that can help you get where you want to go and achieve your dreams. Because they’ve done it.
Want to live a life of significance? Help others live a life of significance. Be a mentor.
They’re all around you. People looking for someone to notice them. To invest in them. Let them know that they matter. That they have significance.
Mentoring leads to countless opportunities for handwritten notes of encouragement, guidance, and praise.
4. Ditch “Good Morning”, start with a connection
It’s the go-to phrase.
It’s so overused that it doesn’t even make it onto the “List of Overused Phrases” list.
Waking up, passing someone on the street, going into work, getting coffee. We say it so much we don’t even pay it any attention.
It doesn’t mean anything anymore. You’re not really even looking for a response.
Here’s a radically simple idea that can lead to a new level of significance in your relationships: Just say something other than “Good Morning”.
Here’s some great alternative early morning conversation starters:
- How is your day going so far?
- Any plans for tonight?
- What are you most looking forward to today?
- What’s going to be your biggest challenge today?
Dig a little deeper. Put forth just a teeny tiny bit more effort.
Ask a leading question that gives you insight into how the person is actually doing. At that particular moment. Ask something that gives you a glimpse of what’s going on in their life.
These moments of connection can deepen your relationships and serve as a jumping off point for your next handwritten note.
5. Treat family like strangers, consider them worthy
With complete strangers we tend to hold back.
We restrain ourselves. Our words. Our actions.
Strangers get our “good side”, while our family members get to experience all of us. Family gets on our nerves. They irritate us.
Think about it. You see a couple arguing. Then, the phone rings. Suddenly one of them seems to have been transported to an alternate reality. Their demeanor completely changes.
An article in Psychology Today on “Why We’re Nicer to Strangers Than the People We Love Most” provides some insight:
We have the least tolerance for the negative qualities of those with whom we spend the most time.
For most of us, we are around our families more than anyone else.
Living a life of significance starts at home. If anything, we should neglect all else but our family.
When you think about it, they are the ones you love the most, right?
If you have a hard time speaking honestly and lovingly to family, try a handwritten note. We are often better able to write what we have difficulty saying.
The more you write, the easier it becomes to say it out loud.
It Starts Today!
Give one of these ideas a try.
Today. This week. Make someone happy. Help them through difficulty. Inspire them.
Start living and writing with significance.
Flickr creative commons image courtesy of Michael Ruiz.