Can you be a means to an end when the end isn’t you? Are you OK or even fulfilled when you are just a cog in the wheel or a gear in the machine? Said differently, is your purpose in life, stated or unstated, mainly about you?

At the Leadercast 2017 conference, Andy Stanley challenged the audience to move beyond “me” and focus on being the means to an end that is much, much bigger than ourselves: “Am I willing to become a means to an end?” I had never thought about life in those terms.

To have a significant impact in life, I think it’s important to get this right. What is your purpose in life? Does it center on serving others, or just “me, me, me”? Those who focus on themselves as the end, and use others as the means to that end, usually see their spheres of influence, relationships, and other parts of their life get smaller over time.

Those who passionately focus on something bigger that’s not about them, will serve out of a place of selflessness. They use their time, talents and treasures to serve causes that make a difference, many times without recognition by the world. And usually these people are OK with “serving in the shadows” because it’s not about them. They know they are the means and not the end, the cog and not the wheel, the gear and not the machine. Perhaps paradoxically, they often find their spheres of influence, relationships and other parts of their lives expanding the more they invest.

What is the first step in becoming a selfless servant? Identifying causes for which you can be the means and not the end is an important first step. Maybe it’s an aspect of your family, your church, or the non-profit for which you currently volunteer. Pay attention to what stirs your heart. For which activities do you lose track of time and are “in the zone”? What would you do all day and not worry about getting paid? Those are good signs of a passion area and a reason to dig further to determine how you can use that passion area to serve something bigger than yourself.

An important point: If you happen to find yourself in a position where you lead “the cogs” or “the gears” who provide the means to an end, please lead well. Learn about servant leadership and how to pour into, develop, and appreciate those whom you lead. Even though they may tell you they don’t need the appreciation, it’s a vital aspect of a well-run team that is accomplishing a purpose larger than all of us.

I pray you will find the end for which you can be the means, and that it will have an eternal impact in the world.