What are you doing that’s significant?

Your most important work

Dont worry re success_FB_2Maria Shriver is a woman who can claim many titles: journalist, activist, author of six best-selling books, former First Lady of California, correspondent for NBC News, philanthropist, Emmy Award winner, mother of four (and that’s not even the complete list).

She also hosts Architects of Change, a forum where she engages in important conversations with “the world’s most insightful minds and inspiring hearts.” I recently listened to her speaking with Martha Beck.

At one point during the conversation, Maria talked about how we often use titles to define ourselves so we appear worthy to others. She went on to share a story about a meeting she had with a Former Justice of the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, who was about to honor Maria with a lifetime achievement award.

Justice O’Connor asked Maria, “What are you doing these days that’s significant?”

Maria talked about her work on Alzheimers (O’Connor gave her one year to solve it!), gender based research, Architects of Change, her blog, NBC News, her mothering. And after each response, O’Connor kept asking, “What else are you doing? What else? You’re not doing anything significant.” (At which point, Maria quipped to the audience, “I felt like my mother had come back from the grave!”)

After a few minutes of this cross examination, Maria found herself struggling to come up with ever more worthwhile endeavors. Finally, she looked O’Connor dead in the eye and replied:

Maria: You know what I’m really doing?

Sandra: No, what?

Maria: I’m working on myself from the inside out. I’m trying to make myself strong.

Sandra: Hmm…. that’s interesting. (And she squeezed Maria’s hand).

Maria: That’s actually the most significant thing I’m doing.

Bravo, Maria!

I think she got it right. Our titles don’t make us significant. It’s doing the inner work to become the strongest version of ourselves that empowers us to make our highest contribution to the world.

Hear Maria share her story with humor and grace. It’s worth a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHMUgIzE4ew (story begins at 26:48).

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