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Creating Successful Leaders

volunteerism and purposeThis past Tuesday, I headed to Kraków, Poland to work as a volunteer for World Youth Day (WYD). This worldwide event takes place every three years and is a gathering of like-minded youth who value service, love, and faith. The festivities are actually held over the course of a week, so the name World Youth Day is a little deceiving. During my time in Poland, I will be mentoring youth from my hometown of Stillwater and volunteering my services to help make WYD 2016 a success.

It will be a long, tiring trip (among thousands of youth!), but I’m certain it will be worth it. I have found that any time volunteering is NOT time wasted. Volunteering is one of the things in life that keeps me energized, motivated, and (most importantly!) gives me purpose.

I firmly believe that the path to a happy life is to find a purpose. For me, that means spending time giving back to my community and the world at large. Even in my work as a career coach, I try to give back to my clients. I approach my work with the mentality, “How can I help YOU?”

Part of the reason I became a career coach was because I wanted to give back. After retiring from my career at 3M, I knew I wasn’t finished. I had spent nearly 30 years building up a skill set, and I wanted to share it with others!

For many people, retirement doesn’t mean “quitting,” it means opening up a new chapter of your life and giving back in different ways. I am reminded of a story I heard of a couple that retired, purchased an RV, and began traveling around the country. After only a month or two, they began to grow bored and anxious to do something more meaningful. At the same time, they also realized that they kept bumping into other retired couples who were doing the same thing—traveling around the U.S. in their RVs. That’s when they were struck with the idea to form a volunteer group with their fellow travelers and do something meaningful at each of their stops.

They decided to work with Habitat for Humanity (since nearly every city has a local chapter) and formed a group called the “Care-A-Vanners.” That group spends one or two weeks in each city they visit, building homes for those in need. And, since they are traveling as a group, the Care-A-Vanners have developed meaningful relationships, while at the same time utilizing their talents and making a difference.

Having volunteered several times through Habitat for Humanity, I am aware of the profound impact their projects can have on other’s lives. My husband (who is a carpenter by trade) and I frequently travel to Clarksdale, MS to help with Habitat’s building projects and we often see and reconnect with the same group of people. I even have a pen pal in Clarksdale—a young woman who I mentor. You might say that we’re accountability partners for each other! I help her focus on her dream of going to college and she reminds me of the very real impact of volunteering and spending quality time with another human being.

Do you know your life’s purpose? If you’re having trouble nailing it down, I challenge you to try volunteering. There are so many causes that need your help—environmental, educational, political, social justice—that you’re bound to find something that motivates you and gets you excited to make a difference.

Let me know how your purpose-seeking is going! Write me a note in the comments section, or send me a message. Happy volunteering!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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