‘Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way.’
~ Barack Obama
Many people long to make a real difference in the world. The list of inspiring visions is endless, but the number of people who act on these dreams are much less.
Most of those people who are making an impact on the world achieve it by helping others to live, work, feel or think better in some way. Maybe you have a clear understanding of how you would like to make your mark (if indeed this is something that is important to you) or maybe you want to make a positive contribution but you are not quite sure how. Alternatively of course, you may be more than happy to go through life without worrying what contribution you have made, in which case this post probably isn’t for you!
If making a difference and contributing to the world in a positive way appeals to you, then read the tips below of how to make it happen:
1) Decide what you want to be known for
There is a powerful exercise in Stephen Coveys book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, where he encourages us to ‘begin with the end in mind’ and visualize our own funeral. I realize this might sound a bit morbid but it can be very helpful for defining what we would like to be known for. By imagining the end of our time on earth, it can help us think through what we would like to be remembered for when we look back at our life and ensure we are on the way to implementing this.
There is no right answer to this exercise, every person is totally unique and so different things will be important to each of us. Defining what they are will help us to ensure that we are on the right track to achieving them.
2) Create strong relationships
Having fulfilling relationships and a good social network is one of the most profound experiences we can have in our lives and helps us to feel healthier, happier and more satisfied. The better able we are to create strong connections with other human beings, the more impact we will likely have on those around us.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that strong social relationships with others predicted greater life satisfaction. With this comes a more positive evaluation on how our life is currently going and how it will go in the future. This positive outlook allows us to achieve more and make a more impactful mark on the world.
3) Be passionate about what you believe in
Most people love to be around others who are passionate about their beliefs. It can be highly contagious. I’ve got friends who are interested in completely different subjects than I am, but they are so passionate about them, I love to feel their energy, even if the topic is not that relevant to me.
Passion can often be witnessed when discussing or carrying out an activity or responsibility that we love and are fascinated with. It’s the feeling when we can’t get enough of something, we want to keep learning and discussing it. Nothing seems out of reach, everything becomes possible. We might not have all the answers, but we have such an overwhelming belief in what we are doing and want to share that with those around us.
Without passion, it’s pretty hard to find success in what we do. Great change comes from passionate people.
4) Have a vision
In order to get what you want from life, you have to figure out what it is that you want. Creating a vision can help you to achieve this. Without one, you might make progress, but it will more than likely take you longer to achieve things if you are less clear about your goals. Once you have your vision, believe fully in it, commit to it and follow it. An important part of a vision is adapting it to changing circumstances. Maybe it won’t turn out exactly as you thought it would initially. There are lots of things outside of our control, so be prepared to adapt it over time. It’s not something that should be set in stone but something that evolves.
5) Be kind
Being kind and compassionate is just general good advice! Being known for being kind is something that is desirable for most people.
Research has shown that kindness can be a major contributor to the levels of happiness we experience, so as well as providing an emotional uplift for those we are kind towards, selfless acts of kindness also result in an increase in our own happiness. A simple smile, a word of encouragement, or the offer of help will go a long way to improving both our own day and that of the recipient of our kindness.
Travelling provides so many amazing benefits. The more we get out and explore the world, the more people from different backgrounds we will meet and the more experiences we will have that will open our minds and broaden our perspectives. We’ll learn about different cultures, explore different places and hopefully meet some amazing new people.
As we travel and explore more of the world we can start to feel more gratitude to the amazing experiences we get to enjoy, the beautiful nature we experience, and the diverse range of people we interact with. Each of these experiences and people we interact with will help us grow as individuals and support us to make a more impactful mark on the world.
It’s not necessary to go far from our homes to explore, meet new people and take in new experiences. There is often plenty of opportunities to explore waiting on our doorstep.
7) Do things for yourself, not for show
We are living in a time where many things we do can be driven for the benefit of others, or for the photos or updates we share about them on social media. It can get to the point where we struggle to actually differentiate whether we are doing things for ourselves or for show.
A recent of example of this was on a holiday I was on in Brazil. I was asked if I wanted to go hang-gliding in Rio. My immediate thought was that it was something that I ‘should’ do if I was in Rio. Then after consideration I realized this was crazy. I should only do something if I want to, if I’ll get enjoyment from it. So I decided it wasn’t on my list of things I wanted to do.
A good technique I have recently started using is to consider whether I would do something if no one else knew about it or witnessed it. I find this helpful to differentiate what I actually want to do versus what I think I should do. To make an impact in the world, I believe it is important to be taking part in things that are important to you, not what you think the ‘right’ thing to do is.
8) Learn from failure
Rather than looking at something as a failure, it can be more beneficial to reposition it as purely an opportunity to learn and grow. Maybe it didn’t work out exactly as we’d hoped this time, but we can identify what we can take from the experience that will help us for the next time. Rather than focusing on the negative and viewing things as a mistake, we can try looking at them as an opportunity to learn and develop and ensure that we change something to be more successful next time.
If we don’t try things out and make mistakes, it is likely that it will prevent us from growing. Therefore it can be helpful to embrace the things that don’t go as expected and rather than calling them failures, call them learning opportunities.
I’d like to be known for someone who is passionate about helping people on the journey to becoming their best selves. What would you like to be known for? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.