Making a Difference
When you think of making a difference what comes to your mind? Feeding a starving nation, providing clean water to communities, helping the homeless? The term making a difference has different meanings to different people, depending on personal circumstance, culture and relationships. The point to this article is that you can live your life with the focus of making a difference with a mindset of performing small acts of giving of yourself.
Fear of failure and making excuses are top reasons that hold us back from making a difference. This can keep us from doing anything at all, adding guilt to our inaction. We will cover five action points here that will hopefully help you move forward.
One: Identify Your Fear
Do you have a dragon hiding under your bed? You may laugh this off, but in the children’s book, There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon, Billy Bixbee finds a tiny dragon in his bedroom. When his mom tells him, There’s no such thing as a dragon! This only makes the dragon get bigger. Soon the dragon is bigger than Billy’s house! Logically, this has great repercussions.
Denying the existence of fear, just like denying the dragon in Billy’s house, will only give access and room for the growth of that fear mentally and in your responses. Soon your decisions and actions could be driven by that fear, creating multiple excuses to deny its existence while the huge dragon of fear walks away with any thought of making a difference.
The process of journaling, even with a couple lines a day, is a great way to identify your fear. Write out your thoughts and even what scares you, then re-read your words, even if they’re few and feel nonsensical. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting your thoughts on paper. This not only creates words for your feelings, but it will help you identify the repetition of the same fearful actions, over and over. Journaling, writing your thoughts down, is one way of shedding light on your fears.
Two: Diffuse Fear with Light
If you’ve ever walked into a dark cave without a light source, you understand how pitch black a cave can be. It is so black and dark as to not even see your hand in front of your face. But as soon as one light source is turned on, which can even be lighting a small match, the whole cavernous space is illuminated with light. This is what shining a light does with fear. It uncovers the unknown and the blackness.
There are a number of examples of sources of light. One fun one is a lightsaber, which is a laser sword and a weapon usually used by the Jedi, the Sith and other characters of the Force in Starwars. A lightsaber could cut through virtually anything and was used for both offense and defense in the movie. You can actually create your own custom lightsaber at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in Disney park for several hundred dollars. And you can buy a number of different lightsabers online at ultrasabers. It’s a fun way to visualize cutting through your fear.
Now picture yourself in that cave, stuck in the darkness. When you diffuse the darkness with light, uncovering what was once fearful and even excused away, you can move forward with confidence. If you are hiding, you can’t stay hidden forever. Find a source of light that will work for you, whether it is journaling, counseling, or sharing with a small group of trusted contacts. (see Emotional Support of Relationships)
Three: Change Your Language
In my most recent book, The Summit: Journey to Hero Mountain, the main protagonist, Mallery, cannot get to her Summit without changing her language. She had to change I Can’t to I Can and I Won’t to I Will. This is a great illustration for all of us as it confirms the value of healthy self-talk. Words alone cannot change our actions or even outcome as it takes more than words. It takes a shift in our mindset. However, what we say has the power to shed light on a dark outlook.
Even small actions like self-talk have the power in making a difference in our lives, but also in the lives of others. Not everyone can give monetary resources to the extent of a Bill Gates or Elon Musk, but we can all give encouragement in a number of ways to others. The principles in the book The 5 Love Languages don’t just apply to love relationships, but also to work colleagues and friendships.
But if we are beating ourselves up, fearful, making multiple excuses, the action of encouraging others doesn’t stand a chance. It takes our action to get over ourselves, then to focus on others.
Four: Quit the Excuses
You can excuse your life away, constantly blaming others, and you may not even be aware of it. This is why journaling is so valuable in writing down your thoughts. As you re-read your entries, you may find repetitions that are quite revealing. I mention three principles in the article, Is it an Excuse or Good Reason? All three principles are very valuable in the application of making a difference.
First is avoidance. Avoidance is just delaying the inevitable. If you avoid going to the dentist, you will eventually need to go, either for multiple cavities or rotten teeth. Better to be consistent. The second principle is Procrastination. Procrastination is similar to avoidance, but it goes further. It does no good to put off doing what you always thought you would do at this point in your life. In fact if you don’t start now, you may never start.
The third principle is neglect. Neglect and denial usually keeps people spinning endlessly stuck in a roundabout. (See article: What is a Roundabout) We’ve probably all had some neighbor who hardly ever mowed his lawn, or neglected her dog all day while working. Their neglect directly influenced your life and the same is true with your neglect. It will influence not only someone else, but also your ability in making a difference.
Five: Tell Somebody
The value of quality relationships and connections cannot be overstated. When you tell somebody your plans, you add accountability and a healthy push to get you where you want to be. Part of my core values is the accountability I have to a small group of women in my life. (see article: Core Values) These four ladies are a part of my inner circle of contacts. I share more with them that most of my other friends. We share, pray and give input when asked. I talk about relationship circles in chapter seven in the book Women at Halftime. I encourage you to read this and apply it.
When you tell somebody your plan, it adds more of a timeline to taking action. Making a difference for you may include small actions like running a 5K or riding your bike for a cause. You don’t have to start a non-profit or donate millions of dollars to further a mission or make a difference.
It’s usually the small actions that add up to huge impact, just like implementing a small tiny habit will eventually reap great results. If you are at mid-career or the halftime of life, there no time like the present to start making a difference. Think through this carefully, then take action overcoming fear, procrastination and excuses. Our world needs you!
You can live your life with the focus of making a difference with a mindset of performing small acts of giving of yourself.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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