“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” ~Socrates
When I started Tiny Buddha, my main goal was to make a positive difference. I think that’s a goal many of us share.
I’ve stumbled upon countless blog and books written by people who say their purpose in life is to help people.
I suspect it’s how most of us infuse our lives with meaning: trying to somehow leave the world a better place than we found it.
I recently read a somewhat old blog post by ex-Microsoft employee Scott Berkun that got me thinking about this collective fascination with making a difference in the world. He wrote:
“We rarely need big things. As soon as someone starts talking about changing the world or radically reinventing something odds are good he’s talking from his ego, not his heart. Unless he’s working on bringing safety to the scared, health to the sick, or opportunity to the poor, the reinvention serves a want (or an ego), not a need.”
He went to explain how on his last day at Microsoft, he gave a lecture and one of his colleagues thanked him for the first time, saying he’d never expressed his admiration before because he assumed it was apparent. According to Scott:
“…it takes a better man to acknowledge goodness in others than it does to merely be good oneself. Anyone can criticize or accept praise, but initiating a positive exchange is a hallmark of a difference maker.”
What a beautiful idea. I couldn’t agree more.
Still, I don’t know if it’s possible to completely relinquish the ego, and I also don’t know if that’s a bad thing. I suspect some of the people who invented or reinvented “big things” to bring safety to the scared, health to the sick, or opportunity to the poor were, at least on some level, driven by the desire to be remembered for making a difference.
It’s human nature to want to create some type of legacy—to not just do good things but also be known for them. There’s no need to vilify that type of desire when you consider it’s primal in all of us.
So much is uncertain in life, particularly what happens after we die. We can’t understand or control where we’re going, but we can influence what we leave behind. Why feel guilty for natural human instincts when those same instincts contribute to a lot of the good in the world?
That being said, we can simultaneously make major contributions to society—both to help other people and feel good about our choices—while making a difference in our everyday lives. We can do things both large and small, for others and ourselves, every day if we choose to.
With that in mind, I recently asked on the Tiny Buddha Facebook page. Some of my favorite responses include:
1. Wake up. ~Karen Maezen Miller
2. Make a difference in yourself, for the better. Such an inward difference always has rippling outward benefits. ~Hansoul Kim
3. Remember there are three poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance. Do not deny their existence but turn them around and you have generosity, compassion, and wisdom. ~Clifton Bradley
4. Make it a habit to respect everyone. ~Margarita Medina
5. Consider the people you see each day. Sometimes I get wrapped up in things I am working on— fundraisers etc. But the coworker, family member, pet right next to you are the people you can truly reach and touch. ~Amy E. Moore
6. Operate from a place of love. ~ Erika Gonzalez
7. Be kind to others. In this busy world people become self consumed and forget that kindness goes a long way. ~ Ana Stuckart
8. Acknowledge the light within myself and in others. Not always easy to do but feels so powerful when I am able to do so. ~Maria Thieme
9. Talk to someone that you think might be in distress. You may make the difference of a lifetime. ~Alexander De Raadt St.James
10. Simply show up. Just put your soul into it. If you show up physically with the soles of your feet, the heart, mind, and soul will have a chance to follow or catch up. You may not want to be there in the beginning, but showing up allows a committed chance at making a difference everyday for the people you love, the people you will meet, and the eventual person you will become. Show up. ~Holli Grant
11. Smile. ~Seret Rafferty
12. Be more involved in the world. You can't be spectator forever. ~Christina Breeden
13. Be the change you wish to see in the world! ~April Spears paraphrasing Gandhi
14. Be gentle and practice sympathetic joy. ~Susan Cross
15. Start really listening to the people around you. Your family for example. People crave for attention. People feel loved when given attention.. Give love. And listening is an act of love. ~Leoni Erica Tayamen
16. Listen. Give. Do. ~Phyllis Fenander
17. Teach your kids by example; be caring, open minded, have good manners and remember to smile. ~Paivi McKittrick
18. Look into your child’s eyes. Stop what you are doing, sit down, and just look into them. Do that every day and you will change the world. ~Noel Cocca
19. Be a true you…positive energy attracts. ~Jane George
20. Love. ~Stephen Kreins
21. I quote the great Horatio Lee Jenkins: “Don't worry—everything is going to be awesome!” ~Carl Dangers
22. Find someone that needs a smile and give them that smile, once a day for the rest of your life, and like a ripple in a pond it will be carried onwards. ~SoulLife Searcher
23. Speak without saying a word. A lot can be said without words. ~Ralph Rocha
24. Learn to be aware of all the wonder we have around us, let the past be in the past and not part of the future. Choose life every day, be grateful for whatever you have, and most important share, share, share—spread as much love as you can. ~Lula Insfran
25. Hakuna mattata, one love, pay it forward. ~Kerin Colby
How are you making a difference in the world?
Photo by Tony the Misfit