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 barista?
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 matters."
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 suggestions.
* 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 Labellavia
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