Lesson 4: Focus on Impact not Impression

Word Count: 1090

Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes

“Don’t use your life to impress people, use it to impact them.” – Dave Willis

Small in size, Big on impact

I have always thought of bees as annoying. Their irritating and continuous buzzing coupled with the danger of their sting has been enough for me to avoid them as much as I can.

But recently I developed a newfound respect for these yellow and black creatures. At the beginning of the spring, I noticed an increase in the number of bees. I sought to find out why. Besides the monopolization of honey and wax, I discovered that bees play a crucial role in food production around the world through pollination. 

In fact, bees are responsible for about 80% of food grown for human consumption. With such a staggering percentage it is easy to see the big impact that these little creatures make. They may never make the headlines but they undoubtedly serve a great purpose. 

What doesn’t make headlines 

When we think about impact, we can be tempted to think of people who are making headlines and changing the world in front of our eyes. Besides bees, impact is also seen in the single parent working and raising children, the volunteer at a homeless shelter, or the employee who goes out of their way to help an elderly person put groceries in their car. These seem small to the world at large but their impact is as significant as those making headlines. 

JFK famously said, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This paradigm-shifting perspective helps us crush selfishness and build a life of service instead. I have made this application to my writing and life and observed that impact ultimately comes from service.  

Impact over Approval 

Writing a blog post each week to edify, educate and encourage has taught me to focus on impact instead of approval as author Tim Ferris once put it. 

Searching for approval drives us to impress people at the expense of making an impact. Living for approval from others carries a high probability of disappointment simply because we become dependent on people to provide what they cannot. We end up living a roller coaster life, subject to the shifting winds and waves of people’s opinions and views of us. 

But when we choose to impact others, I believe we set ourselves up to live a significant and satisfying life. Three “bees” have become my bread and butter when it comes to making an impact. I believe they foster better interactions, conversations, and create environments where serving others can change lives.

 1. Be a helper (Open your eyes)

As a parent, I have learned that seeing from the child’s level is crucial when dealing with tantrums and meltdowns. Parenting a toddler is not the easiest thing. Then again there are parents who would differ and say that parenting a teenager is no walk in the park either. But whether toddler or teenager, seeing life from their viewpoint minimizes frustrations that come with their respective stages. By seeing correctly we become helpers and shapers of our children’s futures.

In writing, my point of view is just as important as parenting. It shapes the flow of content and the structure I will use to encourage, edify, and educate. Likewise, we cannot live an impactful life while our eyes are shut. Opening our eyes means becoming more aware through observation. To put in proper perspective, our level of awareness is directly proportional to our level of impact. And living with awareness requires that we not only see but listen as well. 

2. Be a listener (Open your ears)

Ernest Hemingway made this reflective quote, “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” 

Opening your ears begins with closing your mouth. Discussions turn into arguments when the art of listening is lost. Listening is a sign of respect. It shows that you value the person and what they have to say. In any relationship, listening will always raise your net worth. It is also an act of generosity. You are saying to the person speaking that they are worth your time and attention, both which seem to be in high demand but in short supply these days. Finally, by listening, you position yourself to learn. Popular talk show host, Larry King always carried this approach, “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I am going to learn, I am going to do it by listening.”

Often the greatest impact we can make in someone’s life is to give them our attention. You create a welcoming atmosphere. You show that you are present and your heart is open and invested in them.

3. Be a lifter (Open your heart)

Seeing and hearing must be connected to the heart to make the greatest impact. Opening your heart says, “This matters.” By showing people they matter, you make an impact in their lives by lifting them. I have made a recent observation in my writing. When my heart is not in it, my writing suffers because I am operating from a place where meaning is absent. But where my heart is invested my involvement, energy, and authenticity all rise. This is when my writing flows best as my richest content is extracted. 

Impact is measured in how your life is lifting others. Two questions are crucial in gauging how open your heart is. First, What areas of your life do you have your heart invested in? It is there that the greatest impact will be felt by those who interact with you. Second, what areas of your life do you need to invest your heart in more to see a greater return in your future? What you value is an indication of where your heart is.  This mirrors a powerful statement made by Jesus, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In conclusion, people are not remembered by how much they impressed us but by the impact they have made in us. 

Final thought: We can all make an impact where we are right now. The decision is yours and mine to make. Will we chase after approval and try to impress people? Or will we choose the path of impact with the goal of making others better? And if you think you are too small to make an impact, remember the little bee buzzing around you is doing just that. 

Keep on Keeping on!

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