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What Gives Your Life Meaning?

This is the BIG question, and only you can answer it. But answer it you must. Leaders owe it to themselves as well as the people they lead to go deeper into their own motivations, their hopes, and their dreams. Business schools don’t require a course in "Understanding Your Personal Mission" for graduation, nor do many family conversations involve parents sharing their purpose in life with their children. Most of us grow up believing that scores get kept based on things like home runs hit, beauty contests won, and amounts on annual W-2 forms. What a pity.

Think of a person who had a great positive influence on your life. How did that happen? Was it the size of their office that so impressed you that you decided right then and there that you were going to strive to be a great leader? Was it the tale of an exotic vacation, a fancy car, or a prestigious title that convinced you to follow someone’s footsteps? I rather doubt it. More likely it was a quiet word spoken at the right moment, an encouraging smile after you spoke up at a meeting, or a short note of congratulations for a job well done that caused you to say, "This is a person I want to emulate."

My friend Mary Marcdante said, "When you’re on purpose, life fits." How does your life fit these days? If tomorrow were your last day on this planet, would your list of regrets be longer than your list of accomplishments? People who are clear about the meanings of their lives find it much easier to make decisions about the big things, to prioritize the activities that fill up their days, and to know, really know, what’s important. There is great peace of mind in knowing how to answer if someone asks, What gives your life meaning?

In his wonderful book The Eagle’s Secret, David McNally quotes Maureen Gustafsen, CEO of the Mankato Chamber and Convention Bureau as saying, "We all have a significant role to play. It is our duty to determine that role and our obligation to fulfill it." I couldn’t agree more. That’s why this question appears twice in this book. It’s a question you need to both ask and answer. Organizations that are filled with people who both unapologetically ask and thoughtfully answer this question are places with a very bright future.