Growing up I think we all had a desire to make a difference in the world one day. To know that our actions somehow contributed to a legacy that changed the face of history, made a difference in somebody’s life, or helped somebody out of a hardship is a special feeling. I believe it’s human nature to want to make a difference. It’s part of the process of developing an identity in such a large world – to leave a legacy. I even remember when I was younger and teachers would ask us in class how we wanted to change the world, or what kind of a difference we wanted to make. There is sometimes an expectation that to make a difference it has to be a big one. It has to be one that gains global awareness, or changes the lives of millions. While that is one way to approach the phenomenon of wanting to have an impact, it’s not the only one.
Too often, however, people want to make a difference for the wrong reasons. They want to make a difference because it affords them the luxury of fame, or “clout” as we might call it these days. While these people are making a difference, the question “what difference are they making” becomes extremely important. In a time filled with “influencers”, we begin to question the impact these people actually have. They do make a difference. They do have an impact. But what is the extent of the influence they are having? Are they propagating an image of perfection to enable certain people to capitalize on the insecurities of others? Could the difference they are making be for the worse? This specific example opens up an entirely new topic of discussion related to social media which I won’t get into in this article, but the question of what impact do we have is still relevant here.
In a time where many people are searching for purpose, looking for the right path to follow in their careers, trying to figure out what exactly they want to do with their lives, I think the question of “what impact do you want to have?” can be a really beneficial one. To answer this question, however, you also have to look inside. What things about yourself do you want to change? When you feel as though you can’t figure out what to do with your life, or are unsure of what it is your passion really is you are actually in a moment where the impact you need to have is not only for the world, but also for yourself. This becomes the connection of purpose and impact.
Having an impact can also be a purpose you can work towards, and a meaningful impact usually is. So in such a case, you are not only having an impact, but also giving yourself a purpose – a reason to wake up everyday and a fulfilling action to accomplish in your life time. The marriage of purpose and impact is a unique one, as the purpose constantly keeps you aware of why you do what you do even through hardship, and the impact you have has the potential to really change lives. So how do you finally select what it is you want to have an impact on? Well, the answers are infinite, but start by asking yourself these questions:
What things in the world need to change?
What kinds of things in the world are not working?
Who in the world needs help?
How can I impact any one of these?
In other words, “where in our world is an impact NEEDED?”. We have a lot of influencers for example, but do we need more of the same? Maybe we need more influencers but ones that spread an entirely different message. Once you start asking this question you will begin a process of learning several things. One, you will learn more about what is happening globally. You will learn about issues related to climate change, mental health initiatives, global crises, humanitarian crises, the lack of respect that exists in some communities, the loss of kindness towards each other etc. Secondly, you will start to feel a passion building up for at least one of them. Your heart will be moved to tackle these issues, whether it be taking steps to fight climate change, or setting a personal goal to make at least one person smile every day. Small or big, to shift something in your life for the greater good of our communities is having an impact.
Before you know it, you will in fact be making a difference in the world. Not just because you personally wanted to change something, but because you took it upon yourself to change something that our world NEEDED. THIS is purpose. This is something that can sustain your life’s direction because it is driven by a passion to leave a positive and direct impact. If what we suffer from is depression, a simple gesture to let somebody know that you are there for them IS making an impact. Do not for a moment think that the small differences don’t matter. They sometimes matter more.
If you want to make a difference in the world, start by understanding what things need your help. Go from there, and your impact will have already started.