Lots of the clients who turn up in my Skype diary tell me that they want to be making a difference with their lives. Me too. We have discussions about making a difference, life purpose, helping others and leaving a legacy.
I read something recently which made the point that legacy is ego, we don’t necessarily need to go that far (although don’t let me stop you if you have big visions to leave something behind). Making a difference can be much closer to home, much easier to do every day, especially if that’s something you decide to live by. A deliciously simple goal, to get up every day and make a difference.
It can be incredibly small and subtle, or at least it can appear that way. But the ripples of your making a difference spread outwards. Someone to whom you make a difference will pay that forward, and on it goes.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I am fortunate that my work enables me to make a difference. Not to everyone every time, but often enough for me to feel the warm glow regularly and to know that I’ve had a good day. I am sure there is more I could do. I have my thinking cap on about this.
And there are many ways outside my client calls where I can make a difference. I think a kind word to everyone in the service industry always goes a long way – the lady behind the till at the supermarket and the petrol station, the gorgeous barista at the coffee shop, the people who deliver my groceries, my takeaways, my Amazon parcels and the post man. I want them to know that I appreciate them doing their jobs and that their service makes my life easier. I want them to know they are not invisible or taken for granted.
“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” Robert F. Kennedy
Michael Neill inspired me with the idea of improving every environment with which we come into contact. So this is about picking up litter, tidying up the ladies loo just a tad (like they encourage you to do on planes), cutting the other side of my hedge which technically is my neighbour’s job, putting the dustbins out each week for everyone who lives in my building, paying to have said dustbins cleaned, taking in parcels for next door, good neighbour stuff.
Letting someone go before me in a queue in the Post Office, giving my seat to another whose need is greater, allowing other drivers to come out of side roads when traffic conditions permit. I could definitely take this up a whole notch with voluntary work and donations; although I feel that I give plenty away, there’s always more to give. Jason Manford is inspiring me right now with his idea of donating advent calendars and boxes of chocolates and biscuits to food banks so that everyone can have a treat at Christmas, especially (but not exclusively) children.
And you can do it in your day job or small business with a cheery smile and the joy of service and nothing being too much trouble, however much provocation there is to be grumpy. Testing, but possible! Don’t let your clients and work colleagues become a drag. It’s not them, it’s you. The solution lies with us. It’s always us. We are the only ones we have the power to change.
In the world of coaching, there is a story which appears everywhere, the one about the starfish. Today I feel it bears repeating. I hope you enjoy it and, at the end, do ask yourself how could you make a difference in some small way today and every day. Let me know, OK?
“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
― Loren Eiseley