Will a difference you make OR a space you take? This was a billboard sign I read recently.
Wow, that was a powerful question indeed. It truly had me pondering. A few years ago, I would have just dismissed the message without much regard.
Now the words matter to me. I have no interest in just taking up space. I want to make a difference.
I am making a difference actually. I can finally recognize that and say it out loud. I say the phrase proudly and not boastfully. I utter the statement because two people told me this week that I helped them. One was a complete stranger to me too.
Both people wrote to me saying I helped or made a difference. I also heard another colleague speaking about me with high praise to senior personnel. This was all unscripted and unprompted by me.
The truth is though that I wasn’t always thinking in terms of outreach and helping others. My work used to be more selfish and internal goals. I don’t think that’s a true bad thing. We have to start somewhere.
But something has changed in me within the last year and a half. I have developed a strong desire to work more with a purpose, to find ways to help a greater amount of people. My mindset has grown.
Here are three ways I’ve cultivated being a difference maker:
1) Think small then go broad.
2) Share experiences and lessons learned with others.
3) Give tips or advice but loosely so others can develop their own strengths.
Think small then go broad
With any project and decision, we often start small. We should start small whenever possible. Maybe we do something for selfish reasons. I believe that’s okay, at least in the beginning. Take action because of a personal gain.
Have an extra scoop of ice cream if you want it. Then teach your children how to make homemade treats. Bring in treats made by your kids to a classroom, a group in a nursing home or a veterans club.
Perhaps you just read a really inspiring book? You know someone who may enjoy reading it too. Share the story and the reason why with that person. Send a note of thanks to the author who wrote it via social media.
These are just two examples that come to my mind. So many possibilities exist.
Reach a goal because it matters to just you. Do something fun because you want to do it. After you complete it though, think bigger. Compose ways that your experiences could help others. This leads into the next point.
Share experiences and lessons learned with others
Who else can benefit from what you’re doing? Is there a way to pay it forward? Can you simply write down the lessons learned in a way that other people can emulate?
Share those experiences. Speak about those lessons learned if they can motivate community members. Write an editorial about what you’ve accomplished or even failed at recently. This leads into the final point of how to be a difference maker.
Give tips or advice loosely
Many people dole out advice when not asked or wanted. Often it can seem condescending, even if not meant to be that way. That is part of life.
When you give helpful suggestions, do so in a non-threatening, helpful and conversational manner. Say things like, “This worked for me so maybe they can help you. I know you’ll figure out what is best for you to do.” Or “I’m giving you this feedback because I see you want to improve and you’re on the right track.”
We can offer tips and accept advice in a thankful, gracious manner. Ultimately we each form our own path and listen to our gut and trusted mentors. Still it’s nice to be open to new ideas and to counsel colleagues when we can.
Be a Difference Maker
Ask yourself how you can be a difference maker. Think of ways, even small ones that you can do more than just take up space.
Or if you decide to just do nothing, I only ask one thing of you. Please step out of the way of people like me who want to do more.