This statement is written one hundred or more times on a blackboard in Asheville, North Carolina. I always find it interesting to see the responses and see if I identify with any of them. I love the response pictured below, which is “Before I die, I want to make a difference.” That’s exactly how I feel. I want to make a difference. I have to believe most people want to make a difference. How about you?
The thing is you probably already have made a difference to someone or something. We just rarely take stock in what we have accomplished. Tally up our impact on others. There are several ways you–yes, you–have made a difference to someone else.
Here they are:
- Love. If you are alive, you likely have loved someone or something. I love my dog. I love my children. I love my husband. I love my family. By loving something else, I have made an impact. I have made a difference in someone’s life. And so have you.
- Listen. When I teach or facilitate, the biggest takeaway I tell my participants is to listen. Listen empathically to your co-worker, your boss, your child, your partner or your dog. Listening to someone else is the biggest gift you can give and it has an impact. It makes a difference. We all want to be heard. Deeply heard.
- Compliments. In an effort to be more positive and to connect to others, I have worked on giving compliments. The trick is to be sincere. I love the color blue and purple, and if someone is wearing that color, I can sincerely compliment them on the color of the blouse, sweater, or earrings. It makes a difference in someone’s day when they receive a sincere compliment.
- Kindness. Giving random acts of kindness makes a difference. Have you ever been in the drive through at Starbucks and someone has paid for your drink? I have. It makes my day. Every time. Give out random acts of kindness and make a difference in someone’s day.
- Language. Learn another language. I decided to learn Spanish when I owned a restaurant several decades ago. I continue to study Spanish. The thing is, when I speak another language like Spanish, even imperfectly…OK, a lot imperfectly, it makes an impact on the other person. I took the trouble to learn how to communicate in THEIR language. It makes a difference.
- Smile. Smiling changes the trajectory of someone else’s day. It’s like an instant happiness pill. And it makes your day better as well. Go ahead. Try it. Make a big fat grin right now. See? Don’t you feel better? Smiling makes a difference for both you and others.
- Disconnect. In today’s day and age of constant beeps and notifications, it’s easy to get swallowed up in the buzz. Do a techno detox once in a while. Even if it’s after 6 PM, or 7 PM or midnight. Disconnecting from screen time will help you make yourself available to connection time with those that matter. Even your dog. So turn off your phone and snuggle up on the coach with Fido. It will make a difference to both of you.
- Let go of resentment. I struggled with this for a long time. I would resent putting dishes in the dishwasher for my family members. I’d resent ALWAYS feeding the dog. But when I let go of the resentment and actually proactively washed the dishes or let the dog out, I felt better. Instead of waiting for someone else to take the initiative, I did. It made a difference for me and improved by relationships with my loved ones.
So take stock. You know you are making a difference in someone else’s life. Taking stock in it will help you rewire your brain to a more positive focus and, over time, will make an impact on your life. You will be just that much happier and satisfied.