What Kind Of Difference Are You Making?
By Bonnie McFarland

Do you wake up every morning and say
"I'm going to change the world today!"?

Most of us would feel a bit grandiose saying that, yet many of us really DO want to
change the world, we DO want to make a difference. And we often feel discouraged
and disheartened at our inability to do that.

But the truth is you DO make a difference. The question is "What kind of a difference
do you make?"

Positive or Negative?

Every day you have many opportunities to make a difference.

When you're driving down the freeway and someone pulls in front of you, do you
yell and shake your fist? Or do you send them a kind thought?

When someone in your family interrupts your work do you let them know (silently or
not so silently) that they're bothering you? Or do you set aside what you're doing and
listen attentively?

When you've waited in line a long time to order your morning latte are you a tad
crabby when it's finally your turn? Or do you say something empathetic to the busy

How you choose to respond to and interact with others will determine whether the
difference you are making is positive or negative -- but you are making a difference.

Other people are affected by your thoughts, words, and actions. You can be a shining
beam of light that brightens someone's day or a dark cloud adding more dreary
negativity. Your smile, kind word, or warm gesture could make all the difference to
your family, friends, coworkers, or even to a stranger.

You may be thinking that it's no big deal; smiling at someone or saying something
nice doesn't make much of a difference. However, as Mother Teresa said, "It is not the
magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that

Over the years, I've heard many stories about a few words or a simple act changing
someone's life. We never know what the magnitude of our impact on someone will be
or how it might ripple out into the world.

Playing With This

I've been playing with this idea lately. Asking myself "What KIND of difference am I
making here?" seems to give me the awareness and space to more often choose to
speak or act in a way that's likely to make a positive difference. This question
provides a tiny nudge that leads me to smile, say something pleasant, or do some
small thing for someone.

It's not that I was rude in restaurants or yelling at my husband or snarling at strangers
before. Nor is it that I am now or ever will be a candidate for sainthood. It's just that
"What kind of difference can I make here?" lightly encourages me to extend
myself a little more in order to make a positive difference in someone's life. And I'm
having fun with it!

Some "little" things I've done in the last few weeks include:

* Giving my waitress a true, shining, bright smile rather than a polite one

* Holding back my words when I felt critical of my husband

* Listening to a friend grieving her divorce

* Visiting an elderly friend who enjoys company and loves to tell stories

In each case my intention was to "make a positive difference with ease and fun." Since
we can never know for sure the impact of our seemingly little actions, I use this
intention as my guide.

Only If It Lights You Up

Each of us DOES make a difference in the world every day. We can choose to make a
POSITIVE difference as many (or as few) times a day as we like. It's up to you. Don't
bludgeon yourself thinking you have to make a positive difference with every person
every minute of every day. That's too much work!

When it's easy for you to do so, try choosing to make a positive difference. No
suffering, sacrifice, or martyrdom required here.

Think again of Mother Teresa: she did amazing work, made a huge difference in many
lives, and she loved what she was doing! You will have more positive impact on
others and feed yourself as well, when you make a positive difference by doing what
lights you up (what energizes and enlivens you, what you love, what you're
passionate about). Make the difference you can make with ease and joy!

(Note: if you have been giving, giving, giving and have nothing left to give, please,
please, please fill your own tank first! Self-care needs to be your priority. When you
are filled up, you may be ready to revisit this idea.)

In Your Life

How can you make a positive difference in the world today? Here are some

* Set your intention to make a positive difference with ease and fun. If "ease and fun"
aren't qualities that speak to you, choose other qualities that light you up.

* Play with saying or doing "little" things that could in some way make a positive
difference to someone. How do you feel when you do this? What happens? How does
it seem to affect the other person?

Remember sometimes we can tell the effect, sometimes not. Sometimes the effect is
immediate, sometimes later. Sometimes there is no effect. You can't control any of this.
When your intention is to make a positive difference and you take action in
support of that intention, allow yourself to feel the pleasure of what you have done,
no matter the results.

* At the end of the day reflect on what you have done to make a positive difference.
No matter how large or small it may seem, give yourself credit for what you have
done. If you focus on what you have done and how good that feels, you'll build
energy to continue making a positive difference.

Each of us truly can make a positive difference every day and who knows how that
could ripple out to change the world.

About the author: Bonnie McFarland works with women at midlife who are restless,
stuck, or dissatisfied and wondering what to do with the rest  of their lives. Her
e-book, "What Lights You Up? Your Guide toPleasure, Passion, and Purpose in Life,"
as well as "Light Matters," her ezine with tips and tools for  getting more of what
you truly want, are both  available free. Go to
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