Imagine that you are an antenna and that your whole being, like a radio station, is broadcasting mood music into the world around you in all directions. You are, you know. Everyone is. We transmit messages about what we think or feel without even speaking out loud. You likely know someone whose very entrance into a room lifts up your spirits and makes you smile and someone else who has the opposite effect, perhaps causing you to feel uncomfortable or your mood to sink. We are always having impact, either positive or negative. I was an adult when I put words to this awareness, and it sparked in me the answer to my lifelong question, “What is my purpose in life?”
My purpose is to cultivate a personal radio station that broadcasts and creates a Positive Impact! How I am is always my main broadcast. What I do is important, of course, but my actions are shaped by what I am feeling and thinking which govern the actual impact I have. Think about how people say, “Thank you”. You can say you are grateful, but unless you truly feel gratitude, the person on the receiving end of the thanks won’t feel the joy and appreciation that comes with true gratitude. Or if you say “I’m sorry”, but you don’t actually feel remorse, the recipient will be left feeling unsatisfied and uncertain. Some element of trust is missing. Perhaps you’ve felt the disappointment or confusion of being on the recipient end of this scenario.
Here is another situation that helps illustrate the concept of impact. Imagine you are standing in line at Starbucks. The person on line in front of you is filled with frustration about the new trainee at the register. You can tell because she is checking her watch, tapping her foot, maybe even mumbling a few nasty comments under her breath. At the same time, the person behind you mentions how wonderful it is that Starbucks employs and trains so many young people, that they have great benefits, including college scholarships to employees! You get the difference, right? Sometimes I’ll playfully ask a class I am teaching, “Who here wants to have a negative impact on the world?” The response is unanimous. No hands go up! And people laugh. Very few people set out to purposely harm. We all want to be successful and happy in life. When not frightened or confused, I believe it’s our true nature to want that for everyone else too.
For the many years in which I wondered what my purpose was, I looked for the career or activity that would define me and give me a sense of mattering and direction. I had thoughts like, “If I were Oprah, I would feel my purpose!” This underlying angst followed me everywhere as I became a wife, a mother, a real estate agent, joined the board of directors of my kids school, volunteered in political action and community outreach, always hoping to get that satisfied feeling I imagined comes with doing something important enough to call it a purpose. Life was good, but I kept having this nagging feeling that I wasn’t doing enough or the right thing. Fifteen years ago, I decided to become a Life Coach, certain that it would be the career that would give me that sense of significance and contribution I longed for.
I am clear now that being a Life Coach, a mom, a wife, a board member or volunteer are not my purposes. They are perfect roles within which I can express my purpose. Becoming a Life Coach, doing deep introspection, studying human behavior and how to cultivate happiness eventually taught me that it was possible to set down my struggle to find purpose, and I could practice it instead! Phew!
Here’s what I love about Positive Impact as a guiding purpose: It’s practical and applicable to everything I do. With Positive Impact as my guide, I can let go of the endless search and struggle to find meaning, and live more joyfully in the present moment. I can self check easily by asking myself the question, “In this moment, am I creating a positive impact, big or small, on myself and the world?”, or “Am I causing pain, for myself or anyone else? And If I am causing pain, how do I correct and repair it?”
‘Positive Impact’ is simple to remember, and with awareness and regular practice, I can more easily realign myself to my best state of being. And from this more present and awakened state of being, I can broadcast only positive, constructive and healing energy into the world. That’s Positive Impact!
Here is my 4 step practice for ‘Positive Impact’ as a guiding purpose:
Step 1: Mindfully seek ways to create positive impact.
Step 2: Mindfully seek ways to minimize and repair negative impact.
Step 3: Celebrate the positive contribution with joy.
Step 4: Repeat!