Having a significant and positive effect on people or situations (also known as ‘making a difference’) has become more important than ever before since the prevalence of what I call “me-ism”, living solely for personal gratification.
Making a difference can also help us realise how very much alike we all are, chasing the same hopes and dreams. Plus, by positively contributing to other people, we lesson our own suffering as it helps us put our own problems in perspective.
In my work as a success coach and motivational speaker, I’ve had the opportunity to meet hundreds of people who have made a significant difference in the world. These people came from all walks of life, men, women, speakers, authors, experts, business owners, mums, dads but they all had common the 5 characteristics listed below:
They don’t carry hurts
Many of us have experienced tremendous amounts of pain. We carry hurts and bitterness which hinders us from including the welfare of others in our lives. One of the biggest obstacles to making a difference in the world and caring for others is carrying hurts. In fact, some of the worst crimes have been caused by people who carry hurts and bitterness. A few years ago, I shared the story of a 16-year old boy in my book “Wake Up And Dream” who had stabbed an elderly man to death in Central Park. That boy didn’t know the man, the man had never done anything to anyone, but the boy was carrying serious hurts. His father would brag about his brother and sister who had become famous for their talents but tell him he wouldn’t amount to anything. So, that day, he decided to do the most hideous thing he could do to become famous.
If you feel you still carry hurts, make a list of the people who have wronged or hurt you. Write down what you have done to hurt others. Throw away the list, or even better, burn it so you can finally let go of the past, forgive others an yourself and move on.
They accept themselves
Another major obstacle to caring for others and making a difference is not accepting yourself. It’s difficult to feel concerned for others if you won’t accept yourself. To make a difference, you need a self-accepting heart. Too many times we look in the mirror and see what’s wrong rather than our good points. We accept other people with their faults and weaknesses, but we won’t accept ours.
Self-acceptance starts with setting an intention by acknowledging that you will let go of self-loathing and shame and catch your inner critic when it rears its ugly head. Then, remember to celebrate your strengths. Simply list your skills and strengths on a piece of paper. It might be tricky to list them all in one go, but make a habit of writing one strength a day especially after catching yourself doing something well.
They enjoy other’s successes
Another characteristic I’ve noticed in people who make a difference in the world is that they enjoy and celebrate other people’s success. They have a heart that rejoices at other people’s victories and are upset when they face difficult times. They don’t feel threatened by other people’s gains because they have learnt to be happy with their own lives. Make the success of people around you a motivator rather than something that pulls you back. Be happy for others and be glad to be associated with them, because after all, it makes you look good too!
As easy as it is to see other people’s successes as a reminder of your own shortcomings, and with social media, it’s become even easier. But remember, you don’t know what they had to go through to get there, so don’t act like it was unearned. Instead, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is it that they have, I wish I had?
- What qualities do I admire about them?
- What are they modelling for me?
- How have they set a new standard for me?
They honour their word
Another very important characteristic people who make a difference have, is how much they honour their word. They mean what they say and do as they said they would. The opportunity to honour your word comes up all the time, every single day. It can be as basic as calling someone when you said you would or meeting deadlines. Honouring your word should be at the top of your priorities, because after all, our word is all we have. When you repeatedly don’t honour your word, people will lose respect for you. All it takes is saying yes when you mean yes and saying no when you mean no.
I remember when I recently took my clients to Fiji on a 5-day business retreat called “Wealth Warrior” and I decided I would take the opportunity to do a fundraising for a local orphanage called “Loloma Home”. At first, we visited the orphanage to introduce ourselves and see what immediate needs they had. We soon found out that they had been washing clothes by hand as their washing machine had broken down and they had been unable to replace it. As we said our goodbyes, we told them we’d be back that same afternoon with a brand new washing machine for them. Upon our return with a brand new washing machine, the orphanage staff seemed extremely pleased but also extremely surprised. When we asked them why they were so surprised, since we had told them our intention, they answered “because many people say many things”. That is when I realised the power of honouring your word. You not only get the respect of others when you do, you also gain respect for yourself as a result. By the way, the fundraising was a huge success, we raised $19,000!
They are committed
Commitment is another quality people who make a difference in the world, have. There’s never been a time when it’s needed more than now as it seems to be a lost value in our modern era. The generation we live in needs to be committed to making a difference. There has to be a point in our lives where making a difference means everything to us. The exact opposite of commitment is quitting, and quitting is a very common obstacle to making a difference! The reason why most people don’t commit to making a difference and give up too easily is because they feel overwhelmed by how much help is needed in the world. They often ask themselves “how can I make a difference when there’s so many people in need?”. If you catch yourself feeling overwhelmed by what should be done to help others, remember the quote by Ronald Reagan: “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”. When this quote is ingrained in you, you’ll notice how easily and how fast you can make a difference in the world.