How to Create a Life of Significance

UPDATED: May 23, 2024
PUBLISHED: December 18, 2017
How to Create a Life of Significance

We’re all capable of falling into monotonous routines; there’s no shame in that. The comfort of knowing where we’re coming from and where we’re going is tremendously reassuring.

But does any part of you feel a longing for something? You’re not quite sure what. Perhaps you’re more distracted than usual. Perhaps you’re teetering on the edge of plain old grumpy.

Those who tend to walk with a bit of a pep in their step are probably close to achieving what they consider to be a life of significance. And there’s an actual framework to help each of us get there. There are choices you can lay out and decisions you can make that will put some of that pep in your step, too.

Significance is a double-sided coin.

A life of significance has two cornerstones: self-care and self-giving. To live a significant life, we must capitalize on our inner joys and share a few outer joys.

Inner joy requires around a bit of what the Danish call a “hygge” lifestyle: finding joy in simple pleasures. Simple pleasures provide little pick-me-ups, and the options are endless. We’re talking about anything from planting a new garden to sipping on a cup of peppermint tea, to enrolling in race car driving classes.

Outer expressions of joy are broad strokes, too. You’re giving something to someone else and, through your interaction, your positive nature and contentment just might rub off on them. This act of giving can include anything from taking a call from a friend in need to cooking once a week at the local shelter.

A life of significance is balanced by these two kinds of joy. So, what can we do to find our way and live there forever?

                Related: 13 Uplifting Quotes for a Cheerful Spirit

How’s your mind?

The first thing we need to examine at are the lenses through which we see the world. Do you tell yourself you can or you can’t do something? Do you look for the possibilities of hope or the probabilities for failure? Much of our life is dependent upon how we frame it.

While many things are out of our hands, particularly the actions of others, we can control our outlook on ourselves, our jobs and our dreams. There’s this wonderful TED Talk where Dr. Alia Crum explains exactly how the thoughts that funnel through our brain affect our physical reality. She’s conducted a lot of research on the placebo effect, concluding that the biggest game-changer is you. If you change your thoughts, you just might change your life.

                Related: If You Want to Change Your Life, Change What You Think

Assess your dreams.

What are your dreams? Are there any burning desires inside of you that you want to learn more about? This doesn’t have to be something huge like enrolling in medical school. It can be as simple as taking an art class to learn a new skill, joining a book club to make sure you read more or checking out your local yoga studio.

About a year ago, when I was feeling lost and deflated, a psychologist said this to me: “Look back to around the age of 10. What did you most like to do then?”

I liked to read and write! So, what did I do shortly thereafter? I spent my days in my life-suck of a job and my nights learning how to offer my writing services far and wide. Any time the gremlins started to creep in and tell me I couldn’t make a living writing, I’d return to one more TED Talk.

This speaker, Tim Ferriss, provides a literal blueprint (worksheet and all) to design the life we desire. I probably scribbled this line from his talk in the margins of my journal 100 times: “The hard choices—what we most fear doing, asking or saying—these are very often what we most need to do. The biggest challenges and problems we face will never be solved with comfortable conversation.”

                Related: 15 Inspiring Quotes About Being a Dreamer

Look around.

Once you have a handle on your thoughts and dreams, look around you—just a little.

It’s rare that someone’s truly a solitary person. So, although we’re going to start feeling fulfilled by the way we frame our thoughts and the decisions we make, there’s one common side-effect. We run the risk of isolating ourselves if we focus too much on self-pleasure.


If the hard choices are the ones we need to make, but we’re already equipped to make them, then what’s holding us back? The only game-changer is you.


Luckily, there’s a simple antidote. All we have to do is offer a little bit of our time when someone—anyone—is in need. Maybe we’ll bring a casserole to a neighbor who’s down and out. Maybe we’ll cast the net a little wider and volunteer somewhere downtown.

Just like it doesn’t matter what those simple pleasures are, it doesn’t matter how we offer ourselves to others, either. All that matters is that we’re doing it.

                Related: True Success Begins the Second You Start Giving Back

Change your thoughts, change your life.

I like to tell friends about one book as often as I can. Being in Balance by Wayne Dyer teaches us how to balance our lives by lining up our thoughts with our desires. He proves we already have everything we need inside ourselves to live the life we want.

I hope you’ll let this thought echo in your mind for the rest of the day. If the hard choices are the ones we need to make, but we’re already equipped to make them, then what’s holding us back? The only game-changer is you.

Kit Kittelstad

Kit Kittelstad is a freelance writer who specializes in lifestyle and travel articles. She also serves as an adjunct communications professor at Pace University in New York, NY.