Life is made up of so many little moments, each extraordinary in their way, but our human natures tend to emphasize the big things as most meaningful. It’s a normal phenomenon, but it can manage to make us feel unmeaningful in everyday activities.
There’s a joy to be found in finding meaning even doing our normal routine. Not only because life in itself is extraordinary, but because all the little things that we do add up to those big moments we crave. Charles Comiskey, American Major League Baseball player, manager, team owner and founding owner of the Chicago White Sox once said, “It is the small things in life which count; it is the inconsequential leak which empties the biggest reservoir.”
Here are a few practical tips to help you find meaning in the day to day.
#1 Stay in your lane
There may be times when we don’t feel we are making enough of an impact, so we start to stray into more and more areas in a search for greater meaning. But doing more or doing “different” doesn’t equal greater purpose. It usually leads to the opposite desired outcome. When we slip into areas outside of our expertise or our passions to have a more significant impact, we typically stretch ourselves too thin and end up feeling burned out. Stay in your lane. Do what you love. Then, even the mundane tasks will be in focus of the big picture.
#2 Influence your circle
Many times we may feel that because we’re not a leader to thousands we are not making an impact. But we’re not all meant to be the leader of masses. Some of us are called to love a smaller circle.
The movie It’s A Wonderful Life is the redemptive story of a man who wishes he had never been born only to get his wish and spend an evening with an angel in training who helps him realize what an impact he has had on the lives of his friends and family. Jimmy Stewart plays the main character, George Bailey who spends his life dreaming of traveling the world and making a difference. He feels trapped in his small town and what he considers to be a small life. However, he eventually realizes that while he may not have influenced a wide circle, his impact on his small town has been, and that impact has ripple effects that stretch beyond what he expected.
We may not have the same platforms or circles of influence as others. But it’s all about what we do with the circle we do have. Like George, we need to learn to find the meaning in caring for the people we have been entrusted with as leaders.
#3 Practice gratitude
Like we’ve discussed before, saying “thank you” can have a positive impact on our team. However, it also can be a fantastic benefit to our search for personal meaning. Gratitude teaches us to look at the positive side of life and to focus on the good. But as we’ve said before on the Volunteer U blog, thankfulness is also a choice. It’s an intentional decision to focus on what we have, all we have accomplished, and the potential to do even greater things. Studies have found that people who practice gratitude experience greater feelings of life contentment over long periods.
#4 Stop and smell the roses
Life is busy and time has become one of our most precious resources. More and more organizations are finding that employees value time off instead of even monetary benefits (particularly for younger generations). It seems as if there is never enough time in the day to get things done and we are always rushing.
But here’s what we need to remember. We set the pace in our lives. We have control to say “no,” to cut back, to place boundaries around our time. In their book, Boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend explain, “Work will grow to fill the time you have set aside for it. If a meeting does not have an agenda with time limits,
An excellent way to find meaning in our busy, everyday lives, is to take a break and focus on what matters. Take a few moments to take a deep breath and enjoy just being alive. It’s an opportunity to refocus and take a step back to see the big picture.
#5 Stay off social media
While social media has its benefits like staying in touch with faraway friends and relatives, it also has some serious adverse side effects. Steven Furtick, the pastor of Elevation Church, warns, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” It becomes a comparison trap when we begin to feel dissatisfied with what we are doing or worry that we aren’t living to our full potential like our friends and followers. It’s a dangerous pitfall that is wholly unnecessary or at least unavoidable. Don’t get caught up in this endless cycle. Skip social media. Focus instead on making real connections and memories.
#6 Celebrate small wins
Our culture leans toward staying busy and focusing on the next project once the current one finishes. However, it’s critical to take a moment and celebrate the victories-even the small ones. In one study, researchers studied almost 12,000 diary entries from 238 employees from several different companies to see the impact of capturing small wins. They found that even the act of recording progress in a small way (such as noting in a journal entry) boosted self-confidence and enhanced motivation to continue working. Taking the time to celebrate small wins, reminds us that we are making a difference every day.
Your life has meaning. You make a difference. Enjoy the little things, the everyday stuff, the small moments that make our day so extraordinary.