“It used to be people wanted to do something. Now it seems everyone wants to be somebody.”
– former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (from the film Iron Lady)
Since 1997 when Mark Burnett created the ultimate reality show Survivor and MTV debuted The Real World in 1992, random individuals have been clamoring for the spotlight of fame and fortune. Sadly, it has only intensified since then with scads of reality television programs popping up on television guides.
The focus our zeitgeist pays to the celebrities spawned from obscurity to the reality set is puzzling. What does that say about our culture? Have we not evolved and matured enough to only aspire to “Be” someone of importance as Margaret Thatcher points out in the above quote, instead of “Doing” something of significance for the world we live in?
First of all, what is the difference between the two aspirations?
To “be” something in this instance is implying that it is a selfish motivation to only better ourselves and our well-being, while choosing to “do” something is selecting a path that will improve at least one other individual’s life, our community, our country or possibly the world. In other words, our intentions are looking beyond ourselves and trying to aid the lives of others, which by default includes ourselves.
Take a moment and recall the goals you are currently in progress achieving. Then ask yourself the following questions and try to answer as specifically and honestly as you can:
*Why do you wish to attain these particular goals?
*Why are you choosing this particular career?
*Why are you choosing to do the things you do each and every day?
*Why are you spending money the way you are spending it currently?
*Why are you making the sacrifices you are making currently?
If any of your answers involve someone or something other than yourself, then you are on the right path. This is not to say you shouldn’t put yourself first. Ironically, you should be putting yourself first because you are choosing to hone your talents so that you might be a tool to help improve or help those around you in a way that only you can do.
Now, ask yourself this question:
*What keeps you up at night?
Everyone’s specific answer will be different, but what I’ve found in general is that what keeps me up at night is my conscience. If I can’t sleep, it is because I’m wrestling with something I’ve done and should have done differently, or how to do something in the days ahead that is at the moment perplexing me. In other words, I am wrestling with doing my best and trying to live up to my full potential.
I believe this is the case for many of you as well, and if it is, it’s a good sign. It’s a sign that you do care about others. It is a sign that you are not narcissistic and in fact desire to live your best life. Welcome such news as a very good sign.
Whether you are choosing a career that is steeped in helping others or the world around you, or simply are taking the best available job to provide for your family and yourself, these are evidence that you are choosing to “do” something, rather than “be” something.
I would also argue that simply by leading a life that is inspiring to others, provides them with an idea of what is possible is also a way of choosing to “do” something. In other words, you are choosing to allow your life to be something that not only benefits yourself – having a sound job, being a responsible adult, standing by your values – but you are allowing your life to serve as an example, demonstrating to others that living in such a way can be a grand life despite what so much of our reality television conveys to the public.
While there are many people in this world who are well known and have attained celebrity status due to trying to better our world and improve the lives of the people around them – Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, for example – there are just as many, unfortunately, who simply are in love with the fame.
“The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.” –David Viscott
Choose to make the purpose of your life one that leaves a legacy that continues to inspire and improve the world even when you are no longer around. While it may not always look glamorous to the outside world, the peace of mind you have will be priceless. Knowing you are pursuing a “doing” path, rather than a “being” path will help you sleep at night, will inspire more people than you will ever know to help others as well and will one person at a time improve the world we live in. Now that is a purpose worth pursuing.
“Purpose is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's needs.” Frederick Buechner