How to leverage your desire to be significant for good not evil

We all want a certain level of significance, but how it manifests into behavior depends on our beliefs. We've seen this in every child, where the desire for significance is fulfilled through attention and when there is a gap, a tantrum or other kind of alarming behavior arises. As we become adults, we continue to seek significance at various levels, but it is important to know that it is a double edged sword. 

Why is it that some people pursue significance by becoming the next professional stand up comedian or even a start up entrepreneur striving to change the world but some people pursue significance by resorting to violence and abuse? I believe the most important difference is where we place meaning.

For people who work to deliver value, they place meaning in that endeavor. Achieving significance is a separate but closely tied idea. But for people who place meaning in achieving significance, this is when things can become negative really fast. An initial desire to be celebrated can quickly downgrade into attention through any means if that strong desire is not met. So it is imperative we reflect on where we place our meaning. How do we measure whether our lives are meaningful AND how do we measure the level of significance we desire. For example:

1. What is the level of significance I desire?

  • Appreciated by my spouse
  • Recognized by my colleagues
  • Awarded by my company
  • Honored by my city
  • Loved by fans around the world

2. What is the matching level of meaningful value I need to provide?

  • Do something sweet and nice everyday
  • See a need and take initiative to solve the problem
  • Develop a program to reignite company culture
  • Start and devote my energy to a green community movement
  • Dedicate my life to producing and creating emotions through entertainment

If you take a look at this made up list, what if we placed meaning on the items in 1., instead of putting our energy in 2.? Could you start to blame your spouse for not getting the appreciation? Could you start to blame your colleagues for not recognizing your efforts? What if meaning is instead placed on the action and value you provide? 

What is your desired significance and where are you placing meaning?