In the wake of tragedy– whether personal or global– we find ourselves asking questions that often lie dormant when things are going “just fine.”
The challenge of living in this tension we call the human experience, where we fluctuate between exceeding joy and exceeding despair, is choosing to make meaningful the small slice of agency we have, the domain that is ours alone.
One of the reasons why I’ve become such a champion of courage (I even wrote a short ebook on it here) is that I believe it gives us the ability to live with conviction. We can proclaim anything we want, but courage makes those convictions concrete.
The biggest fear I used to have
My absolute biggest fear was that I would leave this earth without an inkling of impact. I wanted to make a difference– was desperate to contribute– but was afraid that I wouldn’t accomplish enough during my time on earth. What if I never reached my goals? What if I failed? Would the implication be that my life didn’t matter?
But what I’ve realized is that there are so many ways to make our days matter. We don’t have to be in positions of great power in order to make a difference. We don’t have to reach our goals before we can have an impact.
My fears dissipated, and I became more courageous than ever, when I realized that every single day of my life matters- now.
7 Ways To Make Today Matter
1) Speak well.
Someone recently said it succinctly: Don’t let your temporary emotions do permanent damage. How simple– and yet how difficult– this challenge is. We use our words to praise, encourage, and tell the truth one moment, only to turn and condemn, criticize, or insult someone the next moment.
Speaking well is choosing to say the right things: to gently address a problem, to quickly encourage and uplift, to courageously inspire others towards purpose and goodness. By our words we make the world we live in. Speaking well today helps to build the world you long to see.
2) Honor a promise.
Promises are grand, beautiful, romantic and moving. But it’s in the quiet moments of everyday life that they are carried out. Keeping a promise is easier said than done. When motivation lags or circumstances shift, we find it hard to do what we said we would.
But honoring a promise means following through on something that matters. We honor promises by doing honest work. We honor promises by staying faithful to our loved ones and friends. We honor promises by staying committed to a cause even when others give up and fall away. Honoring a promise makes true that grand vision that was once cast, no matter how long ago.
3) Right a wrong.
On a global scale, it’s easy to look upon tragic events and ask ourselves, how could we have let that happen? But as the atrocities are taking place, many of us are cowering in the corner, or simply growing numb to it all.
Our days matter because each day is an opportunity to right a wrong. We may not be in the position to right global wrongs, but we can make right the wrongs in the minutiae of our own lives. None of this is easy– confrontation, confession, forgiveness, consequences– but we walk away changed. Making something right today could make a thousand more things right tomorrow.
4) Create opportunity.
We often equate the word “opportunity” with “job.” But creating opportunity is so much more than giving someone a job– though that could certainly be part of it. Creating opportunity can also mean giving someone a second chance to participate in a project. It could mean connecting to individuals who would benefit from knowing each other. It could mean stepping aside and letting someone else shine.
Opportunity is created when we understand that community matters. Opportunity is what happens when I decide that I am not the only one who can run the show– in fact, it happens when I acknowledge my need for help. When you give opportunity, you allow someone the chance to thrive in a new position. That discovery could lead to many more opportunities beyond your own circles.
5) Love with action.
Saying those three little words has always come easily to me. Acting on them, however, can be much harder. Saying “I love you” with my actions could mean surrendering my resources for a cause that matters. It could mean waking up early to prepare a meal, or stay up late cleaning up. It could mean pushing through tense and unpredictable seasons for the sake of upholding a friend or family member.
If you choose to show love in a meaningful, tangible way today, then your day will not be wasted. Regardless the size of the action or the stature of the recipient, it will matter.
6) Reflect and remember.
We don’t often think of making a difference as doing something within ourselves. But that can be the biggest difference we choose to make all day– the decision to consider our circumstances and draw lessons from them.
If there’s nothing you’ve done all day that is noteworthy– perhaps circumstances left you bereft of options– then simply take the opportunity to reflect and remember. Is there anything you want to change about the way you live? What would you like to stay the same?
7) Give something away.
Many people my age view themselves as unprivileged, inexperienced, and simply “not there yet.” But this just isn’t true. Many of us live in excess of something— and we can afford to give something away everyday. It could be opening up our networks to others, or teaching a simple skill, or sharing a resource we found online. We are full of life experiences and can offer tips to others who are new to them. At the very least, we all know what it feels like to be praised or encouraged. We can always give that to someone else.
As we exercise the muscle of generosity, we become more and more aware of the impact we are capable of having. We grow in creativity as we continue to give out of the abundance we discover in our own lives.
The bottom line: don’t discount your influence.
There are words only you can say. There is knowledge only you can give. If you really want to make your days matter in a tangible way– to the people you love, to the communities you’re in– you can.