During my first major transformation as a mom with young kids, I was committed to living with purpose. I knew it had something to do with serving something bigger than myself and I started researching opportunities to get involved with different causes. But I kept coming back to the feeling of insignificance – how can I possibly make a difference in ending world hunger? I’m just one person.
It paralyzed me. So I did nothing.
A short while later as I was researching different project ideas, I came across Taylor, an 11-year-old girl who had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a rare bone cancer. As she and her parents researched various treatment options, they learned that pediatric cancer research was severely underfunded. So she decided to make bracelets from her hospital bed to sell to raise money.
That story changed my life. I was so inspired by her fearlessness while I stood nearly frozen in place, unable to do anything because I couldn’t do anything ‘big’.
After doing more research about kids like Taylor, I realized that kids have an uncanny ability to look at a problem. They don’t say ‘it’s too big’ or ‘how can I possibly make a difference?’ Whether it’s $5 or $500 they say ‘I can make a difference. Period.’
I was so inspired by the stories I read, I decided to start Ripple Kids, a nonprofit seeking to inspire and empower kids to make a difference. I knew that if I was so moved by these stories, then others would be too. I had a vision: this would be a global organization, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of kids to help solve massive causes such as hunger and poverty.
Ripple Kids would cause a worldwide movement to make a difference all inspired by kids. I just knew it.
It was a beautiful vision, and I worked hard – I mean really hard – for years to make it happen. For over 10 years I was lucky enough to be able to pour my heart and soul into something I was incredibly passionate about. I spent weekends with my kids setting up events, partnering with local schools to recognize their students, and creating my own Ripple Kids fair so kids could share their projects and passion with their peers in hopes of inspiring them to take action.
I felt it so strongly in my bones. This is what I was here to do. This was my purpose.
For the first several years it was that optimism, that vision that kept me going. I just KNEW that everyone would get it and get on board. It wouldn’t be hard! It was a no-brainer. Early on, we hit a bit of speedbump with the recession. Then around years 5-8 when the programs I developed weren’t growing as quickly as I would have liked, I came up with new ideas that would surely build momentum. Not satisfied with the results, I pushed on although, by this point, my energy and enthusiasm were starting to wane somewhat. Despite the fact that I was still so passionate about the ability of kids to change the world.
The last couple of years, for the first time, I started to come to terms with the fact that maybe this wasn’t my calling. That this labor of love that I had invested so much time (and money!) into might not become the global powerhouse that I thought it would.
Maybe I was wrong.
I was devastated. This was my purpose. I had a vision! There was a part of me that felt like a failure. I had let myself – and the world - down.
As I wrestled with the fact that it might be time to move on, it took months for me to finally admit that it was ok to let it go. I knew I had to in order to do the work I’m doing now. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was quite painful.
Fast forward to today. As I work with my clients and talk to women about what purpose means to them, I realize that my definition of purpose may have been flawed, to begin with. What if purpose doesn’t mean to serve a cause greater than yourself? What if it simply means to serve a cause as great as yourself? Is it enough to do something simply because you’re good at it? Or because it makes you feel good? What if the impact of your action comes from your kids seeing you living a life that fulfills you? What if your feeling of self-satisfaction that comes from doing something you truly love radiates out so that simply coming into contact with you impacts those around you – friends, family, and strangers alike? What if that smile and a kind word to the barista at the coffee shop who is overworked and underpaid then ripples out to a customer who is having a bad day who then takes it home to share with his wife?
Doesn’t that have meaning? By the way, who defines what impact and meaning are? Who quantifies that? Is there a panel of ‘meaning’ judges rating whether or not we make the grade? By what measure are we holding ourselves accountable?
I thought I had to have a global enterprise serving millions of people in order to make a difference. But you know what? That isn’t doing justice to those kids who did create their own projects. I know now that every single one who implemented a service project because they were inspired by something I did - had an impact. It impacted them. It impacted their family and friends. And it impacted the community they served.
And it impacted me. It fed my soul.
I was wrong when I thought the impact had to be BIG. I know that now. At the end of the day, it starts with me. I felt good when I was doing that work. When I saw the kids at school raise money for the homeless, cut off their hair for locks of love, or made dog beds for animals at the shelter. They were making a difference. Because of me and my vision.
And that’s enough.
So when you start thinking about what’s next for you as you move into your next phase of life… when you start thinking about your purpose, don’t get caught up in the arbitrary measures that someone else defined. Think about what makes you feel good – what feeds your soul. And then go do it.
You will be making more of an impact than you ever believed possible.
It’s never too late to begin to live a life of true purpose and intention. If you enjoyed this blog and want to take things even further, or simply would like to chat about what the future will look like for you, I am happy to help!