Living a life of significance

I think it’s safe to say that most people yearn for significance. Perhaps when we’re young, we’re too busy to think about what that means or to wonder if what we’re doing will have lasting significance, but those of us in the second half of life, especially those who have entered their retirement years, may struggle with finding purpose or significance in their daily lives.

Significant Living - Jerry & Shirley RoseSo what does living a life of significance really mean? Significance can be defined as “being worthy of attention” or “meaningful”. It begins with the word “sign” for a reason. A thing’s significance is a sign of its importance.

I’ve just finished reading Significant Living: A Road Map for the Second Half of Your Life by Jerry and Shirley Rose. One of the things that the Roses point out is what significance is not

“Some people confuse significance with success” but they are not the same thing. Many so-called successful lives lack true significance.

It’s very easy in this day and age, when we’re exposed to the lives of the rich and famous through the media, to feel that we’ve somehow missed the boat if we haven’t done something truly big with our lives, but what does significance really look like? The answer will be different for each one of us, but again I quote the Roses, “For some, significance may come through mentoring or having a significant influence on the family. It may be starting a business or doing volunteer work. The important thing is not the size of what we do. Whether our pursuits are ‘big’ or ‘small’ the importance lies in filling a need in the lives of other people. Significance usually translates into getting involved with others.”

That definitely resonated with me. I do want to make it clear, however, that in our relationships, and particularly in marriage, we ought not to depend on another person to give our lives significance. Significance should come not from another person, but rather, from how your life affects the lives of others.

The simple key to living a life of significance is to share your time, talent, and treasure with others. Those of us who have reached retirement age usually have an abundance of time to give. Chances are, we have also developed skills and talents that can be used to better the lives of others. Regardless of where you are in life, you don’t have to be wealthy to give generously of what you do have to worthwhile causes, to family, or to friends in need.

For me, significance begins by knowing that God has a purpose for my life and that I am using the gifts He has given me to impact the lives of other people. I believe that the most significant thing I ever accomplished was raising my children to be the responsible young adults that they are today. I know that I also had a significant impact on at least some of the students that I taught during my career. Now that my children are grown and I’ve retired from teaching, it would be easy to feel that my significance had waned, but that is not the case. Even in our very small rural community there are many opportunities to volunteer time and talent. Over the past couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of teaching two young immigrant women who never had the opportunity to receive a formal education how to read. I’ve also done online editing and mentoring, again on a volunteer basis. If anything I’ve said on the blog has impacted another person in a positive way, that too has added significance to my life.

Do you feel that your life lacks significance? Consider your gifts and passions, then look for ways to use them to impact others. Are you living a life of significance? If so, please share what it is that makes your life meaningful. Perhaps it will help someone else!




5 thoughts on “Living a life of significance

  1. I think feeling significant is a natural result of making a difference in others lives. I wonder how many people who are depressed would be better treated by doing good works than by taking pills. We need to think more about how God can use us to make this world a better place. You can’t feel insignicant if you are a conduit for God’s love.

  2. Hi Elaine and Richard: I have followed in your steps and have retired from teaching – it has been one full year. My steps leading into retirement were not quite what I expected but won’t go into details here. I planned for my retirement by buying two sewing machines – a regular one, and an embroidery one, as I planned to sew as part of my retirement. It was a wise decision, as my pension reflects my part-time work over a number of years and not a full pension. However, I have enough since I bought my machines while working. Our church makes quilts to send overseas – the sewing group gathers weekly and I contribute by making quilt tops; this year, I decided to also make reusable feminine hygiene products for use in third world nations. Our latest container from April is being shipped to Mauritania…I also love to make baby quilts for colleagues, friends and family; and now lately lap quilts. Sewing meets my creative spirit, and accomplishing something that gives pleasure to others is most gratifying…I have also made adult bibs for my mom who is now living in a retirement home, and have made others for people in her building. Now, I am making quilts for our church bazaar which happens in December – I have also roped my best friend, newly retired, into making quilts too…she’s loving it so much, she has make over 25 quilts since December! We get together about once or twice a month to sew and generally discuss what is happening. We are both content and feel we contribute significantly to others. Thanks for your blog! I enjoy keeping in touch…Jan Scheidt

    • Thanks so much for sharing, Jan! It’s great to hear from you. Yours is a perfect example of using your creativity and your passion for sewing to impact lives around the world. You are living a life of significance!

  3. Pingback: One word for 2019 | Following Augustine

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