At Redmond, our mission is to elevate the human experience. A big part of this is helping our people find meaning and fulfillment in their lives.
Everyone wants to feel like they’re doing something that matters and make a meaningful contribution that’s unique to who they are. We all want to make a difference.
We believe that everyone has a unique contribution they were born to make in this world and the journey to finding that contribution is how we find true fulfillment.
Your Unique Contribution
What is a unique contribution, anyway?
Your unique contribution isn’t a task or a role, but an aspect of a task or a role. Instead of something like “teacher,” your unique contribution might be breaking down complex topics and explaining them in a simple and engaging way. Instead of “farmer” your contribution might be “getting in tune with nature and understanding what living things need to thrive.” And even those are just a part of your unique contribution that makes you YOU.
Your unique contribution might show up in lots of different ways, and it’s more than one thing. You’ll find LOTS of ways to express that contribution through different roles (professionally and personally) and in different activities. It’s as unique to you as your fingerprint, and just as complex.
How to Find Your Unique Contribution
At Redmond, we use a concept called the Three Circles to help each other find that unique contribution.
The Three Circles are a Venn diagram representing how you can be helpful, what you’re wired for, and what fills your cup. Where the Three Circles overlap, you find something beautiful and different that only you can do. You could even call this your life purpose or reason for being.
Let’s break those circles down.
Circle #1: How you can be helpful
This is where it all has to start and where your motivation comes from. It’s also the easiest to figure out most of the time.
The best way to learn how you’re being helpful is to talk to other people like your partner, family, coworkers, etc. We might be helpful in ways we don’t even realize, and we might also think we’re being helpful in some ways when we’re actually not. (This can be hard to hear, so go into these conversations with humility, an open mind, and an attitude of discovery. If something you’re doing isn’t helpful, that frees you up to do something else!)
Ask what you do that’s helpful, how it’s helpful, and why it’s helpful. The more detail you get, the more you’ll understand.
You can keep exploring this on your own as well. Ask yourself these questions:
What do other people ask for my help with?
What are others willing to pay me for?
Passion for Contribution (one of our Redmond core values) can really help you here! If you actively seek to make your life and the lives of those around you better in the long term, you’ll start noticing where you’re most helpful, as well as where you actually enjoy being helpful, and what you’re really good at.
Your helpfulness might change over time, and that’s okay. What you did that was helpful in the past might be different than what’s necessary now. This doesn't mean what you did was a waste! Quite the opposite, in fact. It was probably essential to your discovery process!
Circle #2: What you’re wired for
In other words, this is how you naturally think, see, and engage with the world.
This one can be harder to see because it’s hardwired into us. It shapes how we think, and we don’t know any other way, just like fish don’t know they’re in water.
Usually, you realize this when you realize that what’s easy for you might not be easy for someone else. You're surprised to realize that not everyone is as good at the same things you are. In fact, you might even think what you have to offer is not very valuable because it’s so easy for you.
“Wait,” you think. “Not everyone just understands numbers like I do? Not everyone knows how to grow strawberries? It’s so simple!” Pay attention to these moments, because those are BIG road signs that point right to what you’re wired for.
What comes easily to you?
Generally, you have good instincts and exercise good judgment in the areas you’re wired for, and you’re aware of how your biases might affect those instincts.
This is an important part of your Three Circles because if you aren’t wired for something, you probably won’t be helpful at it for very long. You can only take that skill so far. The runway is short, and sooner or later, you’ll hit a wall where your development stalls and you can’t really get any better. That’s going to start to feel really discouraging!
This is another good one to ask others about, because we might struggle to see this in ourselves.
Circle #3: What fills your cup
What do you love to do?
We like to end with this one because sometimes, the question “What are you passionate about?” just feels too big. Sometimes we don’t know. Sometimes, the things that fill our cup seem like little things that couldn’t possibly factor into our unique contribution.
On the other hand, focusing on what we enjoy can blind us to whether we’re actually good at that thing or whether it’s helpful.
Don’t worry, it’s great to have things you do just because you enjoy them. This is part of renewal, and hobbies are awesome!
When it comes to your unique contribution, helpfulness and wiring have to be in place first, and enjoying what you do enables you to keep making that contribution for a long time.
After all, even if you’re being helpful and are good at what you’re doing, you won’t last long if it doesn’t also fill your cup. You’ll get bored or burn out and want to move on to something else.
Unlike with helpfulness and wiring, you’re the best one to figure this out.
What do you love? WHY do you love it? It helps to ask why, because sometimes we can THINK we love something when really, we just love how much it pays or how cool it makes us look, or because someone close to us loves it, etc.
What do you enjoy doing? What are you doing when time seems to disappear? What do you think about when you don’t have to think about anything?
All of these answers are clues!
Where it all comes together
While you’re figuring out these circles, you might see patterns and connections and you might not. Either way, keep exploring. You might learn things about yourself you never realized before.
These circles all affect each other. You'll be most helpful in areas that you’re wired for, and feeling helpful and competent on its own might fill your cup. It all connects!
Things to Remember
Here are a few pointers to help you along this journey.
You can’t do it alone.
Remember how we suggested that you talk to other people? Other people are SUPER important in helping you discover your unique contribution.
Look for people who know you well and see you clearly to give you more perspective. Our own views are veeeeerry limited because we’re too close to see ourselves clearly. Even if we’re pretty self-aware, we can always use outside perspectives.
This is a lifelong journey.
There is no finish line. The center of the Three Circles isn’t a place where you arrive and set up camp. It’s a path you follow. There’s no stagnation or sitting still on this journey because your unique contribution will change, and it’s not just one thing. You ALWAYS have room to learn and grow, and you’ll keep finding new nuances and facets of your unique contribution that you didn’t even know were there!
Your unique contribution will evolve.
We’re always looking for the ‘next right answer’ and it's okay if it doesn’t remain the ‘right’ answer forever. Be willing to let go of doing things that are no longer working for you and try something else.
The circles all affect each other.
This process is circular, not linear, because once you learn more about yourself in one circle, it will probably affect the other two!
You’ll also notice that the deeper you go into each circle, the more integrated that circle becomes with the other two. You’ll see that when you feel helpful, that fills your cup, and you can be MORE helpful when you’re wired for whatever it is you’re doing. You might enjoy learning and growing and realize that you have a lot more growth potential in areas you’re wired for.
Just like peeling an onion, each layer brings you closer to the center. As you peel back the layers, the divide between what fills your cup, what you’re wired for, and how you can be helpful will start to disappear.
This is the most unselfish journey you can take.
This is good for everyone. Your unique contribution not only fulfills you, but also helps those around you. This is the most unselfish journey you could take. It’s the ultimate win-win!
You’re On Your Way!
The circles are something to explore, not a puzzle to solve. You’ll be on this journey for your entire life.
Keep track of your journey in a journal, talk it over with someone close to you who supports you, etc. Take the time to think about these things. Half the effort here is slowing down enough to notice, pay attention, and ask questions.
There’s always more to discover!