The straight forward way to live a life of significance is simply to share your three T's: time, talent, and treasure. Our lives are meant to give away--to significant causes, to loving families, to friends in need, to lasting relationships. Find a way that your gifts can serve others.
Your time, energy, and money are precious resources--they are limited, and you are the sole owner. If you spend them in one area, you can't spend them in another. When we say "yes" to one thing, by default we are saying "no" to something else. The key to winning is to say "yes" to the significant things in your life.
It's a paradox of life that only by giving away our time do we make our lives meaningful, for time is the most precious gift of all. The time we spend playing with a child or grandchild, chatting with a bedridden friend, coaching a team member, supporting a colleague, or serving those in need in our community cannot be measured in dollars but is priceless. And life rewards those who donate their time, first in terms of their own satisfaction and the good opinion of others, later in ways they can never foresee. The time may come when you need a hand, and there will be many more hands offering help than you can count.
There's something especially rewarding about applying your best talents toward the benefit of others. The way to make the greatest contribution with your talent is by recognizing and using your strengths. Applying your talents to something bigger than yourself--a team's goal, an industry meeting, a professional association or a community project--inspires a sense of meaning and significance.
You don't have to be wealthy to donate your treasure to others--an insignificant part of modest holdings can be a fortune to others--but stories of truly generous wealthy people inspire us. Here's one such story.
In 1981, business leader and self-made millionaire Eugene Lang looked out at the faces of the 59 African-American and Puerto Rican sixth-graders who had come to hear him speak. Years earlier, Lang had attended this same school in East Harlem. Now, he wondered how he could get these children to listen to him. What could he say to inspire these students when, statistically, most would probably drop out of school before graduation?
Finally, scrapping his notes, he spoke from his heart. "Stay in school," he told them. "If you do, I'll help pay the college tuition for every one of you."
At that moment, he changed the life of every student in the room. For the first time, they had hope, hope of achieving more than their older brothers and sisters, hope of living a better life than their parents and neighbors.
Six years later, nearly 90 percent of that class graduated from high school, and true to his promise, Lang made it possible for them to attend college. A few years later he founded the "I Have a Dream" Foundation, which has supported similar projects in 57 cities, assisted by more than 200 sponsors helping more than 12,000 disadvantaged students with academic support and guidance through high school and a college education.
There's a Chinese proverb that says, "If you continually give, you will continually have." It's a perfect formula for building a significant team and a significant life.
Remember, your legacy is not about what you acquire. It is about what you leave behind.