I have heard the phrase, “I just want to make a difference,” a lot lately. Whether in the opening statements of a podcast, on self-help TikTok, or in someone’s “why” statement. Everyone wants to make a difference.
But do they?
What does making a difference look like?
What does it sound like, feel like, or smell like?
Where does the difference show up? When does the difference take place? Who is the recipient of the difference? And most importantly, what difference does that “difference” really make?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I discovered I have a subtle bias hardwired in my head in thinking about this. Maybe it is the prevailing “celebrity” mindset that seems to hold to the idea that only the newest, biggest, fastest, strongest, and wealthiest are worthy of notice and thus, by extension, are the only ones able to “make change happen.”
Damn, when I am wrong, I am wrong.
Nothing moves in or through the world as we know it without leaving an impression of some sort. As viewed through the lens of science, Nature shows that even the smallest microbe impacts its environment. The impact grows in proportion to the mass of the originating object.
Yes, it would be nice to cure cancer (or Covid), negotiate peace in the Middle East (or Ukraine), or feed every person on earth, but such lofty aspirations are easy to dismiss because…well, because that is just not going to happen.
But could I ease the concerns of one cancer patient by preparing dinner for their family or watching their kids while they receive their next dose of chemo?
World peace is beyond my paygrade but extending an olive branch to a friend or family member then sitting down and doing the hard work of rebuilding a relationship is certainly possible.
And feeding the world sounds exhausting but volunteering at my local food bank or soup kitchen is something I could accomplish.
These opportunities make an incremental but essential change. When built into everyday life and rolled out over time, the difference they support is vast.
When viewed through the lens of the long game, finding a need on your street, in your local school, or the cubicle next to yours is where you can make the most crucial difference.
I challenge myself and my coaching clients to drill down and see the needs on my own doors step.
The only thing left to do then is act.
Somewhere in the world, right now, a mother is burying her child.
Somewhere in the world, someone is deciding whether to buy food for their kids or pay the electric bill.
Somewhere in the world, an executive has lost their job.
Somewhere in the world, war has ripped through a family, leaving some alive and others dead.
Somewhere in the world, a young, single father has been diagnosed with cancer.
Somewhere in the world, a trans man or woman is afraid for their life.
Somewhere in the world, an immigrant struggles with a new language and culture.
Somewhere in the world, a congenital disability challenges a young family.
Somewhere in the world, an aging man or woman feels they have lost their struggle with loneliness.
Somewhere in the world, an LGBTQIA+ teenager is rejected by their family and is forced to live on the streets.
Somewhere in the world, a child has felt their first crushing blow of racism.
Somewhere in the world, another human being, just like you or I, prays someone will notice them, smile at them, and speak to them.
Want to make a difference?
Find a need (they are everywhere) and fill it. Period. Full Stop.