Sometimes people make light of the idea that each of us is a “special snowflake,” but guess what? It’s true. There is no one else exactly like you in the universe, and there’s no one else exactly like me either. We each have a unique way of doing things and a form of expression that no one else has.
This uniqueness provides each of us with a rare and priceless opportunity to provide a unique gift to the world. Even when we do work that is similar to others’, our presentation and expression is guaranteed to be different.
The Dagara tribe in Africa understands this concept well. The Dagara know that each person brings an irreplaceable contribution to the world, not just to their family and community. When a tribal elder dies, it’s seen as the equivalent of a massive library burning to the ground. In death, the elder’s knowledge and gifts are lost to the world.
We need to realize that we each have a wealth of information inside us as well, more than enough to fill an expansive library. Each of us is the only person in the world with our exact knowledge, experience, and understanding. Recognizing this truth and finding ways to share our uniqueness is how we, as individuals, can change the world.
Here are 5 Steps to Get Started:
1. Actively Work to Discover Your Purpose
At an education conference in 2011, the Dalai Lama asked people in the audience what they thought was the biggest threat to our world. He got a wide range of responses including nuclear weapons, global poverty, and the environment. To that, the Dalai Lama responded by saying, “The greatest threat to our world is we’re raising a generation of passive bystanders.”
Don’t be a passive bystander in your own life. Commit to taking an active role in not only discovering what you are here to give, but in living it. There are enough passive bystanders. The world needs more of us to take an active role in serving others with our unique talents and gifts.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman
2. Be Your Authentic Self
I’ve spent a lot of time studying and working with personality assessments, including using assessments for hiring and screening good employees. One thing I’ve seen time and time again is that when a person doesn’t act in congruence with their true self, they have high levels of discord in their lives. This discord can include challenges in finding employment, building relationships, and ultimately finding happiness and success.
For example, I met a physician once as part of an interview process. During the process, I was able to review the results of his Personalysis assessment. The results showed that his true nature was to be very introverted and reserved. However, he believed he needed to be extremely social and outgoing to be successful in his practice. His behavior at work was highly inconsistent and extreme, sometimes he was happy and outgoing, and at other times he was angry and would lash out at his staff. The extreme difference between his authentic self and his public self created a huge amount of tension, and resulted in a very high rate of turnover in his practice.
The closer we can align our words and actions with our hearts, minds, and values, the more authentic we can be for others. When we are authentic, we also feel better about ourselves and the world in general. Practicing authenticity is something we can do every moment and in every situation. We don’t suddenly wake up one morning as an authentic person. We have to choose authenticity with every breath and every moment. When we get off track, which is bound to happen, we must choose to return to a place of authenticity.
3. Play Big
We all have a comfort zone where we like to stay. Our work, family, and daily routines provide us with a sense of necessary security. It can be easy to stay in our safe routine unless something forces us to drastically change such as an illness, divorce, layoff, or other major life event.
Don’t wait for a major event to move you into action.
- Step out of your comfort zone every day.
- Try new things, meet new people.
- Explore the world, explore your community.
- Make bold moves.
- Play big.
“Your playing small does not serve the world’ ~Marianne Williamson
4. Tap Into Your Inner Voice
Everything we need to know about our purpose and gifts for the world is inside of us. The key is learning how to listen to our internal voice. Once we are able to tap into our own internal voice, we feel a greater sense of clarity and calmness.
Tapping into this inner voice requires time for solitude and quiet meditation. This can be hard for many of us who are busy “doing;” we don’t often spend enough time just “being.”
“Men and women begin to become great when they begin to take time quietly by themselves, when they begin to practice solitude.” ~ Catherine Ponder
According to author Brian Tracy, “Solitude requires that you sit quietly, perfectly still, back and head erect, eyes open, without cigarettes, candy, writing materials, music or any interruptions whatsoever for at least 30 minutes. An hour is better.
Become completely relaxed, and breathe deeply. Just let your mind flow. Don’t deliberately try to think about anything. The harder you “don’t try,” the more powerfully it works. After 20 or 25 minutes, you’ll begin to feel deeply relaxed. You’ll begin to experience a flow of energy coming into your mind and body. You’ll have a tremendous sense of well-being. At this point, you’ll be ready to get the full benefit of these moments of contemplation.”
5. Choose Love Over Fear
It has been said that every decision we make comes down to a choice between love or fear. When our actions come from a place of love, our mind is open to all the possibilities around us. We see things that may not have been evident before, we feel more confident, and we’re willing to step out of our comfort zone.
When our actions come from a place of fear however, we limit ourselves and those around us. We don’t do things that we want to do.
Compare the qualities of each of these emotions. Where would you like to spend your time?
Qualities of Love: Openness, Acceptance, Compassion, Awareness, Community, Sincerity, Service, Loyalty, Respect, Inspiration, Honesty, Bliss
Qualities of Fear: Anger, Resentment, Lack, Limitation, Jealousy, Greed, Malice, Anxiety, Not Enoughness, Shame, Loathing
We each have the power to change the world. We can tap into that power by sharing our unique gifts with the world, by being our true selves, and by coming from a place of love. Malala Yousafzai is a wonderful and inspiring example. As you may know, she is a young woman from Pakistan who, at great personal risk, stood up for the rights of women to receive an education. Malala’s bravery resulted in her becoming the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, and her crusade has turned into an international movement.
“One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” ~ Malala Yousafzai
Now It’s Your Turn
What is one you can do today to begin sharing your unique gifts with the world? Share your thoughts below.
Photo courtesy of BlueSunPDX.