“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to leave the world a better place; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
My father is my hero, and one of the most successful men in the world.
When I was a kid he worked two full-time blue-collar jobs to support me and my siblings. He didn’t have a college degree—he attended briefly on a golf scholarship and then got hurt—but he compensated with hard work.
Though many people wouldn’t be happy with that type of life, I never once heard him complain. Being someone who prefers a simple routine over ambition, he stayed in the printing industry until he got laid off last year.
Though he’s inspired me in a million ways, he’s done two things exceedingly well: enjoy his life and treat everyone with kindness and respect.
I thought about this the other day while flipping through Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list. As I read about leaders and luminaries who’ve made huge impact on the world, I started to think about the important little things we all do on a daily basis.
You may not have won the Nobel Peace Prize, but that doesn’t mean you’re not influential in making the world a peaceful place. You may not have created a tool that connects millions of people the world over, but you’re still the glue that holds people together in more ways than you even realize.
I haven’t always given myself credit for all the good I do. If you can relate, you may enjoy this reminder of all the ways you make the world a better place.
Love and Kindness
1. Loving people even in their weakest moments and giving them strength. As Marilyn Monroe said, “If you can’t take me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”
2. Forgiving someone instead of holding a grudge, which gives them peace of mind. That peace of mind ripples back into the world.
3. Listening just to help someone find their own way when it would be easier to dominate the conversation.
4. Helping someone who can’t offer you anything in return.
5. Noticing someone’s positive efforts that often go unappreciated. Everyone wants to believe they make a difference. Sometimes a little gratitude inspires them to make an even bigger impact.
6. Showing a child, through actions, how to be a good person. Children learn from what we do more than what we say.
7. Giving someone a book that might change their life. As Mark Twain said, “The man who does not read great books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”
8. Forgiving yourself and letting go of the past. You can only love yourself if you cut yourself some slack—and you can only love other people if you love yourself.
9. Taking care of your family’s needs, both physical and emotional. It’s not easy to do both simultaneously and well.
10. Connecting two people whose lives will improve for knowing each other.
Strength and Commitment
11. Making the effort to know yourself. Focused introspection—taking an honest assessment of who you are and what makes you happy—is the first step toward living a beautiful life.
12. Acknowledging a mistake and growing through the process
13. Working through it when you’re having a hard day. A lot of people shut down when times get difficult. Whenever you keep going you have every reason to feel proud.
14. Finding joy in your work regardless of your success. In an achievement-oriented society, focusing on the journey and not the outcome is an act of greatness.
15. Putting your heart into your blog, regardless of your readership. Even if only one person learns from your experiences, you’ve made a powerful difference through your words.
16. Staying in the game even when you think you might lose. Sticktoitiveness is an attribute to celebrate. It helps you be the person you want to be regardless of what you accomplish.
17. Honoring a promise when you’re tempted not to keep it.
18. Actually being the person you claim to be, however that translates into action.
19. Comparing yourself to an older version of you instead of other people. There’s no better way to measure your growth and motivate yourself to keep going.
20. Having the strength to walk away from a person or situation that isn’t good for you.
Health and Hope
21. Meditating, practicing yoga, or taking a calming walk. Every time you melt your stresses and foster inner peace, you help make the world a more peaceful place.
22. Taking care of your body by exercising, whether it’s running after your dog or running a marathon. Taking care of yourself is a prerequisite to anything else you want to do in the world.
23. Helping someone else become healthier, by inviting them for a walk or making them a healthy meal.
24. Making one minor change for healthier eating, like going without butter. Little changes can make a big difference. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
25. Trusting your inner voice instead of letting the world make decisions for you.
26. Creating a positive environment that nurtures everyone who enters it.
27. Understanding instead of arguing. Good for your mental well-being and other people’s, too.
28. Doing anything to take care of the earth—cleaning up a park or reducing your carbon footprint.
29. Enjoying yourself regardless of what you’ve gotten done. Enjoyment is success.
30. Being the change you want to see in the world instead of growing jaded.
Purpose and Possibilities
31. Believing in your own potential. It’s easy to get down on yourself, particularly when the economy isn’t in great shape. Any time you build yourself up you’ve set the stage to change the world.
32. Telling someone else you believe in their potential. You never know what act of greatness you might inspire, however big or small.
33. Taking one small step to fill your life with meaning based on what matters to you. People who live with passion and purpose inspire everyone around them.
34. Keeping an open mind, both to create new possibilities for yourself and to increase your chances of loving and helping people.
35. Doing something that scares you. The more willing you are to take risks, the greater your odds of feeling fulfilled in life. Fulfillment is success.
36. Supporting a cause that matters to you, whether that means making a small donation or doing the walk for breast cancer.
37. Mentoring someone who’d like to do what you do. When you help someone live their dreams you’re a meaningful part of their happiness.
38. Learning from someone else. Sometimes it’s powerful to be the apprentice and not the expert.
39. Creating. Music, poetry, jewelry, movies, websites, buildings—any time you crease something with heart and positive intentions, it’s a gift to the world.
40. Opening your world to new people. No one is an island. Every time you open your world to someone else, you create the possibility of inspiring and being inspired.
As always, I haven’t created a thorough list. This is just the beginning. Reach out! What minor success have you celebrated or noticed today?