Over the past several years I have been a subscriber to the Sunday edition of the New York Times. Somewhat incredibly one of my favorite segments is the obituary column. It consistently astonishes me. I discover the stories of people who I have never heard of but who have lived extraordinary lives, achieved amazing things and contributed significantly to human progress.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was quoted as stating: “I want to put a ding in the universe.” Whilst that may appear beyond the aspirations of most people, it is, in fact, a desire of many.

This is where we often face a conundrum. Do those of us who are not rich and famous really, truly matter? If we have not changed or contributed to the world like Nelson Mandela, or Bono, or Mother Theresa, or Oprah, or the many other humanitarians, artists and leaders who are passionate about improving the human experience, is there any real significance to our existence? Where will be the evidence that we existed apart from a notation on a gravestone?

At my church we have an outreach called the Dignity Center. The center caters to people who are homeless and struggling, yet have made a commitment to doing everything they can to live a life of self-sufficiency and dignity. What they need is not only encouragement, but also the resources and practical support to get back on their feet.

Every day volunteers such as lawyers, accountants, carpenters, caterers, engineers, counselors, government workers, ministers, college students and many others with varying degrees of expertise, show up to provide the guidance and direction the clients need. The results are inspiring. I have learned that homeless is not synonymous with hopeless.

People who put their ding on the universe have a sense of purpose. They know every contribution matters. It is unwise to judge what contributions are more important than others. There are many needs in all sectors of society and in every corner of the world.

Whereas the media may give attention to what might be deemed more “noble” or selfless pursuits such as the Dignity Center, my experience suggests that a well-run business which operates ethically, which is conscious of its footprint, where customers are cared for and employees feel safe, where they have opportunities to provide for families and secure retirement - that business makes a powerful contribution to a better world.

There is a significant payoff to being committed to a worthy purpose. Life is lived on a feeling level. When we are contributing to something we believe in, we feel good. If there is a healthy answer to feeling good most of the time, it is contributing value every day to the people, the work and the organizations that are important to us.

All winning teams are aligned behind a common purpose. That purpose transforms people who feel that every day is a marathon into a team that knows when, where and to whom to pass the baton. Purpose is the source of inspiration, it influences culture and guides actions. Clarity of purpose is clearly visible in the way people think and act.

Early in my career, I produced an inspirational film called – The Power of Purpose. The film was about Terry Fox, a young Canadian who, at the age of eighteen, lost his right leg to cancer. If you are unfamiliar with Terry, let me share that he is now regarded as one of Canada’s greatest heroes.

At the time of his diagnosis Terry was understandably in shock and disbelief. But, what captured my imagination about Terry’s story was how he discovered an incredible and compelling purpose in the midst of adversity. His attitude was summed up in these words: “If this is the way I have to go through life, I’ll make the most of it.” And indeed he did.

After three years of rehabilitation, Terry committed himself to what he called The Marathon of Hope. A dedicated athlete, despite the loss of his leg, he had even completed a marathon. Now, however, Terry would commit to a much larger purpose: to run the entire width of Canada and raise a million dollars for cancer research.

Terry never made it across Canada as the cancer metastasized to his lungs, but he did complete 3,339 miles of the journey and the final tally for cancer research was twenty-four million dollars. Terry died within a year but today the foundation established in his name has raised 750 million dollars through its annual Marathon of Hope runs throughout the world.

Purpose has power. It transforms the mundane into the magnificent. Purpose inspires, provides a clear focus for the day, and gives the courage to transcend life’s greatest challenges. Discovering your purpose is the ultimate expression of how you will leave your “ding on the universe.”