“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
Think about someone who inspires you. Not someone you envy; not someone who makes you feel like a pathetic human in comparison—someone who gives you hope just by spending time with them in real life or following them on social media.
What makes that person inspirational to you? What habits do they practice that you admire? What do they specifically inspire you to do?
For me, these people all share a few common qualities that I pray I can emulate one day:
- They unashamedly pursue their dreams, passions, creativity, calling, career, etc. because of intrinsic motivation, not for the praise of others, money or any other externally focused reason.
- They do this with humility alongside joy—they can’t help but share about what they love, but they aren’t self-aggrandizing OR self-deprecating. They’re just really into their thing.
- They're not constantly second-guessing themselves.
- They don’t manipulate or use others to achieve their goals or make themselves feel good about what they’re doing.
- They are generous and kind to and about others in public AND private.
I could name dozens of people who I have witnessed “come alive” in various capacities—motherhood, marriage, friendship, career, spirituality, creativity—and who inspire me to do the same. I wish I could list them all, but just to illustrate my point, here are a few.
💥 In last week’s Helpful Happies, I mentioned my friend Michelle, who loves her family so joyfully and intentionally. Michelle's kids, husband and life are not picture perfect. But they are hers, and she treasures the privilege and responsibility of loving them. She worries about her kids like any other mom, but she genuinely ADORES THEM. She talks so positively about her babies—not just “I love my kids,” but things like, “Paige is a magical girl. She always has been. She’s so nurturing and kind… etc.” Michelle does things like paint a wall in her kitchen with chalkboard paint so she can do huge seasonal drawings that make her kids happy. When her daughter was little she planned things like “Tutu Tuesdays,” where they’d wear tutus and have tea parties every Tuesday. In the summer, she clears her schedule and plans adventures with her kids. I could go on, but you get it.
✨ Michelle inspires me to ENJOY my kids and husband and to be more intentional with how I love my family. Making memories for our kids, showing my husband I love him and creating a healthy family dynamic is NOT something that just happens without effort. We naturally treat those we are closest to with the most flippancy, so Michelle’s example teaches me intentionality is essential to creating a home full of joy, unconditional love and beautiful memories.
💥 My friend Ally is a public relations professional and is so passionate about what she does. She has two small kids and works full time. She recently received an important certification that took over a year of studying for a big test, putting a huge portfolio together and going through an interview process (at least that’s my understanding of what she had to do… there was probably more). This kind of determination is astounding to me.
✨ Ally inspires me to play the long game in pursuing my professional/creative/career goals and to stay dedicated to improving and learning. I lack a lot of focus professionally, but I know I love to write, so I want to pursue my craft like Ally pursues her public relations expertise.
💥 My friend Blair has been a foster parent and also does a lot of advocacy work on behalf of the foster care system. When we fostered, I shared a lot on social media and was really kind of self-centered about it. I never see Blair complaining, patting herself on the back or really talking all that much about it. She just does what she’s called to do in a super humble way and makes a difference without centering herself.
✨ Blair inspires me to question my motivation for serving and ask myself if I could do it without shouting it from the rooftops. People who quietly or even anonymously serve others are huge inspirational figures to me because I have always struggled so much with pride in this area.
💥 This isn’t my story, but it’s so good I have to share. We have a friend named Jonathan. Like Scott, Jonathan is an engineer. Engineers have two big tests/certifications they can to take to further their careers: the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and the Professional Engineering exam. The FE covers everything engineers learn in school, including stuff like calculus and physics. The further you get from engineering school, the more difficult the FE becomes… because you forget how to do calculus. The PE is discipline-specific and tests on high-level concepts used in an engineer's job every day.
When Scott graduated, he missed the FE exam because… well, we went to a party the night before and he overslept. OOPS. He ended up going into sales, so these exams weren’t essential to his career like they are for other engineers.
✨ A few years after we met Jonathan, he shared that he, too, had never taken the FE or PE exam. He decided to study for and take both back-to-back, an unusual and difficult task that requires a ton of time and discipline. Jonathan passed both. Scott was so inspired that he decided to do the same. He took both exams in the span of a year, and he passed! This accomplishment was HUGE, and even though it’s not required for his job, it helps him establish credibility with his customers, most of whom are PEs themselves. Without Jonathan’s example, Scott probably wouldn’t have had the motivation to pursue this hard and optional thing.
What makes these people inspirational, while others make us feel inadequate or suck the life out of the rooms they’re in? I think the answer is simple and kind of paradoxical: comparison is the thief of joy. Despite their obvious impact on others, these people aren’t doing what they do solely to impress or inspire. These folks are not insecure or overly prideful. They’re not sabotaging their gifts because they’re worried about what people will think, and they’re not sharing thinly veiled humble brags, either. They’re appropriately proud of their accomplishments while also rooting for others. They’re just staying in their lane and doing what makes them come alive.
For me, a huge part of living this way means accepting this truth: pursuing goals with excellence isn’t selfish. My insecurity benefits no one. Sometimes, I hide behind this idea of humility when I’m really just scared to take a step because I worry too much about what people think.
Building a platform to grow this newsletter isn’t conceited. Striving to be a thoughtful wife and mom isn’t prideful. Enjoying my life isn’t sinful. And what’s more—like that Howard Thurman quote so beautifully expresses, embracing what makes us come alive is an act of generosity. It gives everyone around us permission to come alive, too. Imagine a world full of people who have fully embraced what they were created to do.
What do you love? What responsibility has been given to you? How can you do that thing in a way that fulfills you and inspires others?
Blessings on this New Year’s Day, friends. I can’t wait to witness how we all come alive this year.