Why do you matter? Have you ever asked yourself this question?

I didn’t realize how rare a question it was until a student approached me about 10 years ago stressed about what he was going to do following graduation. Not knowing where to start, I began by asking what I believed at the time to be a rather innocuous question: “Alright, let’s start here: Why do you matter?”

His response after a long, awkward pause? “Well… I don’t matter yet. That’s why I’m working so hard.”

That is a completely unacceptable response to receive from anyone that you care about. The problem is, as I began to ask other students, my colleagues, and later leaders of all kinds around the world, I came to a disconcerting realization: hardly anyone can answer that question. We’re out there unconsciously chasing the feeling that we matter, but rarely have we taken the time to identify how we already do. Just as importantly, most of us can’t remember the last time we were even asked the question.

That’s an issue because defining why and how we plan to matter is our blueprint for recognizing the positive impact we create every day and ultimately for giving ourselves permission to call ourselves a leader.

Educated Into Competition

An underlying problem with many education systems is that they teach us to believe that we function in an economy of scarcity and that, in order for us to matter, we have to check off imaginary boxes that reinforce the system’s definition of success and fulfillment. I call this collection of boxes “The List.”

You know ‘The List’: graduate high school; get into a good university; do well enough to get a job in a highly competitive market; get married; buy a house; have children, and so on. This insistence on encouraging everyone to conform to this list teaches us that if we don’t aspire towards and ultimately check off these boxes, we don’t matter. Instead, we’re educated into spending our time hoping to matter, hoping to lead, and hoping to make a difference one day. At Day One, our goal is helping people plan to matter, plan to lead, and plan to make a difference.

Planning to Matter

To embrace our capacity to create a positive impact and ultimately recognize ourselves as leaders, we need to take the time to identify the behaviours we want to become a non-negotiable part of every day of the rest of our lives. Furthermore, we need to evaluate those behaviours on a daily basis to ensure we’re actually being the person we want to be. That means asking ourselves and others this incredibly important question to start – “Why do you matter?”

The Day One Process and the idea of living your life according to a personal leadership philosophy were created to give you, that former student, and everyone else struggling with that question a framework to prove to yourself, every day, that you matter because of the impact you have on the world and the people around you.

Through the Process, you will learn how to surface your values; define them as a commitment to certain specific actions, and then create daily questions to ensure you live them every day.

Where to Start

I won’t pretend to say that answering the question of why you matter is easy. However, it becomes easier when you have a simple and accessible way to remind others why they matter. Seeing people’s reactions to being made aware of their impact makes it impossible not to realize that you’ve mattered to someone else. That’s why we created (and I’ve fallen in love with) our newest leadership recognition initiative: The Wall of Amazing Humans (The WOAH).

The WOAH is where supervisors, colleagues, friends, and employees recognize the people in their lives who inspire, motivate, and support them each day. Those inducted into the Wall have been identified by their peers as people who improve their workplaces and communities through what they DO every day, not what title they hold. Most importantly, recognizing other people’s leadership simply matters. If you’re struggling with how to answer that question – consider taking the time to answer it for someone else. In the process, you’ve also answered it for yourself.

Choose to matter today: learn more about The WOAH here, and nominate a leader in your life who deserves to be reminded how they matter!