I am constantly trying to understand the balance between these two. The first is the desire to be a person of significance, doing work that is significant. The second is an understanding that in the grand scheme of the Universe, I am insignificant and any work I do will therefore be insignificant.
It is interrelated to the polarity, “doing too much vs. doing too little”.
It is clear to me that the world has an undeniable amount of challenges. It is also clear that there are 7 billion talented, unique people on Earth and that a majority of these problems are human-made. I don’t know these 7 billion people, but I imagine we’re more alike than we are different.
I believe that we are all heros, whole and complete, with goals and dreams and a desire to make a difference. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. And so does our planet.
Yet time and time again we brutalize our planet and our fellow humans for short-term "gain". I often grapple with the thought that as a species the #1 thing we produce is suffering.
So what can one person do about it?
For many of us, this is too overwhelming to give our attention to. Ignorance is bliss. I also believe that if we fixate on all of the problems at once, we’ll make ourselves crazy and miss out on the beauty that does exist. I accept that there is a lot outside of any one individual’s control. I accept that I won’t be the hero that saves the world.
But there is hope.
Just as suffering is a part of the human condition, so is goodness. On an individual level, consider what your ancestors had to sacrifice to give you the life you have. So much love. On a cultural level, while there is still so much to be improved, we have evolved. So much struggle.
I may live in a bubble, but for every soul-sucking business I hear about, I see a soul-filling one with a higher purpose creating enormous impact. Hell, the fact that I work for a company whose mission is to inspire passion and purpose in workplaces around the world means something, doesn’t it? There are a substantial amount of others who are innovating and doing outstanding work in every field.
That said, we have a long way to go. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
That justice doesn’t just happen. The one thing I know to be true is that change starts with you. It begins by being dedicated to your own self-mastery and evolution. By investing in yourself as your own best friend, coach, and mentor. It is by taking an active interest in who you are now and who you aspire to be. It is by going through an internal discovery so that you may become clear on what your gifts and talents are. It is taking those discoveries and connecting them to your passionate curiosity [what you both care about and wonder about] and listening to what the world needs so you know where to apply it. I believe that when we are clear on who we are and what we stand for, we may make more informed, conscious choices. Those choices have a ripple of impact.
I truly believe that by doing the inner work to resolving our own tensions, we can do the outer work to resolve the tensions of our communities.
And we can feel both the relief that comes from progress on a meaningful job well done and the joy of celebrating life while you’re living.
On significance vs. insignificance, I have no answers, I only see that each day we are given is a gift and an opportunity for growth. Situation and circumstance have an impact but so do attitude and character.
With that, a final note comes to mind...